A serviceman checks his machine-gun in a shelter on the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants at frontline with Ukrainian government forces in Slavyanoserbsk, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. Ukraine’s leaders sought to reassure the nation that a feared invasion from neighboring Russia was not imminent, even as they acknowledged the threat is real and prepared to accept a shipment of American military equipment Tuesday to shore up their defenses. (AP Photo)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s leaders sought Tuesday to reassure the nation that an invasion from neighboring Russia was not imminent, even as they acknowledged the threat is real and received a shipment of U.S. military equipment to shore up their defenses.

Moscow has denied it is planning an assault, but it has massed an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine in recent weeks and is holding military drills at multiple locations in Russia. That has led the United States and its NATO allies to rush to prepare for a possible war.

Several rounds of high stakes diplomacy have failed to yield any breakthroughs, and tensions escalated further this week. NATO said it was bolstering its deterrence in the Baltic Sea region, and the U.S. ordered 8,500 troops on higher alert for potential deployment to Europe as part of an alliance “response force” if necessary. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said he is prepared to send troops to protect NATO allies in Europe.

In a show of European unity in Berlin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron called for an easing of the crisis.

“We … expect clear steps from Russia that will contribute to a de-escalation of the situation,” Scholz said.

Macron, who said he would talk with President Vladimir Putin by phone Friday, added: “If there is aggression, there will be retaliation and the cost will be very high.”

The U.S. and its allies have vowed to hit Russia with sanctions like never before if Moscow sends its military into Ukraine but they have provided few details, saying it’s best to keep Putin guessing.

The U.S. State Department has ordered the families of all American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv to leave the country, and it said that nonessential embassy staff could leave. Britain said it, too, was withdrawing some diplomats and dependents from its embassy, and families of Canadian diplomatic staff also have been told to leave.

In Ukraine, however, authorities have sought to project calm in order not to destabilize the situation and avoid panic — and many citizens have expressed skepticism that there will be an invasion soon.

In parliament, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that “as of today, there are no grounds to believe” that Russia is preparing to invade imminently, noting that its troops have not formed what he called a battle group that could force its way through the border.

“Don’t worry, sleep well,” he said. “No need to have your bags packed.”

Reznikov’s remarks follow multiple reassurances from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other officials. On Monday, Zelenskyy told the nation that the situation was “under control.”

In an interview aired late Monday, however, the defense minister acknowledged that “there are risky scenarios” that “are possible and probable in the future.”

Russia has said Western accusations it is planning an attack are merely a cover for NATO’s own planned provocations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov again accused the U.S. of “fomenting tensions” around Ukraine, a former Soviet state that has been in a conflict with Russia for almost eight years.

Moscow has rejected Western demands to pull its troops back from areas near Ukraine, saying it will deploy and train them wherever necessary on its territory as a response to what it called “hostile” moves by the U.S. and its allies. Thousands of troops from Russia’s Southern and Western Military Districts took part Tuesday in readiness drills in those regions in maneuvers involving Iskander missiles and dozens of warplanes.

In 2014, following the ouster of a Kremlin-friendly president in Kyiv, Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency in the country’s eastern industrial heartland. Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels has killed over 14,000 people, and efforts to reach a settlement have stalled.

In the latest standoff, Russia wants guarantees from the West that NATO will never admit Ukraine as a member and that the alliance would curtail other actions, such as stationing troops in former Soviet bloc countries. Some of these, like the membership pledge, are nonstarters for NATO, creating a seemingly intractable stalemate that many fear can only end in a war.

Moscow has accused Ukraine of massing troops near rebel-controlled regions to retake them by force — accusations Kyiv has rejected.

Ukrainian leaders: Stay calm, Russian invasion not imminent

Ukraine-001

A serviceman checks his machine-gun in a shelter on the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants at frontline with Ukrainian government forces in Slavyanoserbsk, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. Ukraine's leaders sought to reassure the nation that a feared invasion from ...

Ukraine-014

In this photo taken from video provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, A Russian paratrooper attends a military exercising at the Pesochnoe training ground in the Yaroslavl region, Russia, (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Ukraine-011

Workers unload a shipment of military aid delivered as part of the United States of America's security assistance to Ukraine, at the Boryspil airport, outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. A new batch of US security assistance provided to Ukraine, including equipment and ammunitions, arrive...

Ukraine-006

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attend a media conference head of their meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. German and French leaders are meeting in Berlin over the Ukraine crisis and other European issues. (AP Photo)

Ukraine-009

A serviceman carries his machine-gun into a shelter on the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants at frontline with Ukrainian government forces in Slavyanoserbsk, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. Ukraine's leaders sought to reassure the nation that a feared invasion fr...

Ukraine-003

In this photo taken from video provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, A Russian fires a mortar as he attends a military exercising at a training ground in Russia. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Ukraine-008

A serviceman prepares his machine-gun in a shelter on the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants at frontline with Ukrainian government forces in Slavyanoserbsk, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. Ukraine's leaders sought to reassure the nation that a feared invasion fro...

Ukraine-013

In this photo provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, a Russian soldier attends a military exercising at the Golovenki training ground in the Moscow region, Russia, (Alexei Ivanov/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Ukraine-004

A serviceman stands holding his machine-gun in a trench on the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants at frontline with Ukrainian government forces in Slavyanoserbsk, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. Ukraine's leaders sought to reassure the nation that a feared invasio...

Ukraine-010

A serviceman walks along a trench on the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants near at frontline with Ukrainian government forces in Slavyanoserbsk, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. Ukraine's leaders sought to reassure the nation that a feared invasion from neighborin...

Ukraine-005

A serviceman holds his machine-gun in a shelter on the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants at frontline with Ukrainian government forces in Slavyanoserbsk, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. Ukraine's leaders sought to reassure the nation that a feared invasion from n...

Ukraine-012

In this photo taken from video provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, The Russian army's Iskander missile launchers take positions during drills in Russia. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Ukraine-007

A woman walks with her dogs on the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants near frontline with Ukrainian government forces in Slavyanoserbsk, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. Ukraine's leaders sought to reassure the nation that a feared invasion from neighboring Russia ...

Ukraine-002

Workers unload a shipment of military aid delivered as part of the United States of America's security assistance to Ukraine, at the Boryspil airport, outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. A new batch of US security assistance provided to Ukraine, including equipment and munitions, arrives ...

Ukraine-001 Ukraine-014 Ukraine-011 Ukraine-006 Ukraine-009 Ukraine-003 Ukraine-008 Ukraine-013 Ukraine-004 Ukraine-010 Ukraine-005 Ukraine-012 Ukraine-007 Ukraine-002

Analysts say Ukraine’s leaders are caught between trying to calm the nation and ensuring it gets sufficient assistance from the West in case of an invasion.

“Ukrainian authorities are trying to prevent destabilization and panic inside the country, hence the calming statements saying there is no threat of an imminent Russian invasion,” political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko said.

“The Kremlin’s plans include undermining the situation inside Ukraine, fomenting hysteria and fear among Ukrainians, and the authorities in Kyiv find it increasingly difficult to contain this snowball,” he added.

The crisis didn’t stop a large group of people from rallying in front of the parliament in Kyiv, demanding changes to the country’s tax regulations and even clashing with police at one point.

Other Ukrainians watched warily.

“Of course we fear Russia’s aggression and a war, which will lead to the further impoverishment of Ukrainians. But we will be forced to fight and defend ourselves,” said Dmytro Ugol, a 46-year-old construction worker in Kyiv. “I am prepared to fight, but my entire family doesn’t want it and lives in tension. Every day, the news scares us more and more.”

Putting U.S.-based troops on heightened alert for Europe on Monday suggested diminishing hope in the West that Putin will back away from what U.S. President Joe Biden himself has said looks like a threat to invade Ukraine.

The Pentagon said Tuesday it is still identifying the roughly 8,500 U.S. troops being placed on higher alert for possible deployment to Europe, and said that more could be tapped if needed. The U.S. is still in “active consultation” with allies about the capabilities they might need, said press secretary John Kirby.

As part of a new $200 million in security assistance directed to Ukraine from the United States, a shipment including equipment and munitions arrived Tuesday in Ukraine, according to Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar.

If Russia invades, “we will provide additional defensive material to the Ukrainians, above and beyond what we have already sent,” U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Ukraine Kristina Kvien said at the airport.

“And let me underscore that Russian soldiers sent to Ukraine at the behest of the Kremlin will face fierce resistance. The losses to Russia will be heavy,” Kvien said.

The U.S. moves are being done in tandem with actions by other NATO members to bolster a defensive presence in Eastern Europe. Denmark is sending a frigate and F-16 warplanes to Lithuania; Spain is sending four fighter jets to Bulgaria and three ships to the Black Sea to join NATO naval forces, and France stands ready to send troops to Romania.

Biden’s national security team has been working with several European nations, the European Commission, and global suppliers on contingency plans if Russia cuts off energy, according to two senior administration officials who briefed reporters about efforts to mitigate spillover effects from potential military action. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations.

If needed, Europe would look to natural gas supplies in North Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the United States. The effort would require “rather smaller volumes from a multitude of sources” to make up for a Russian cutoff, according to one official.

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A close-up of a heliport under construction in Rutog County.

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On volatile border between India and China, a high-altitude military buildup is underway

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Construction crews are now scattered around Ladakh as Indian authorities speed up their infrastructure race with China.

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An overview of a heliport under construction near Aksai Chin Lake, in a region administered by China but contested by India, on May 28.

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An overview of a heliport under construction in Rutog County in the Ngari Prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, on Nov. 28.

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BEIJING’S ISLAND-BUILDING IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA

Runway

Runway

China is expanding the construction of its facilities on Fiery Cross Reef. Provided by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), this June 28, 2015 photo reveals Beijing has nearly completed a 3,000 meter (9,800-foot) airstrip, long enough to accommodate most Chinese military aircraft. Two h...

Expansion

Expansion

Reclamation on Fiery Cross Reef, which lies on the west side of the Spratly Islands, began in August of 2014 and its principal landmass was finished by November. Dredgers have created a land mass that spans the entire existing reef and is approximately 3,000 meters long and 200-300 meters wide.

Facilities

Facilities

This picture taken last November shows construction work being carried out on Fiery Cross Reef. The reef reportedly already houses a helicopter landing pad, a 300-meter-long wharf, a harbor large enough to dock military tankers, barracks and artillery emplacements.

South Johnson Reef

South Johnson Reef

This reef was one of the first facilities to finish principal land reclamation. This recent picture shows that a radar tower is nearing completion at the north end of the land mass. According to AMTI, a new large multi-level military facility has been built in the center of the island. Up to six sur...

A naval base?

A naval base?

Beginning in early 2015, Mischief Reef - also located in the Spratlys - has undergone extensive reclamation activity. Experts say that the recent widening of the southern entrance to the reef, coupled with sightings of Chinese navy vessels, may suggest a future role for the reclaimed reef as a naval...

From reef to island

From reef to island

Significant construction on Gaven Reef began in 2014, with a total of 114,000 square meters of land already created. Satellite pictures show just how fast construction has progressed on the reef. A new artificial island was created between March (left) and August (right) 2014.

Troop garrison

Troop garrison

According to AMTI, China has had a troop garrison on Gaven Reef since 2003, which has included a large supply platform where ships can dock. Experts say a new main square building in the reef appears to be an anti-aircraft tower.

A standardized process

A standardized process

As seen in this image, the basic process of expanding these features involves dredging sand from the seafloor and dumping it onto the reefs. The structure is raised above the high water line, hiding the status of the bank or reef beneath. The sand is then smoothed out and workers surround the island...

'Historic rights'

'Historic rights'

China claims most of the potentially energy-rich waterway, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The US Pacific Fleet commander recently said China was "creating a great wall of sand" in the South China Sea, causing serious concerns about its territorial intentions. Beijin...

Territorial disputes

Territorial disputes

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims, which have led to territorial disputes in the area. Last summer, China's deployment of a massive oil rig in waters also claimed by Hanoi escalated tensions in the region, sparking a standoff at sea and violent anti-C...

US concerns

US concerns

Washington is concerned China's efforts carry a military dimension that could undermine the US' naval and economic power in the Pacific, and has weighed sending warships and surveillance aircraft within 12 nautical miles of the new artificial islands. Washington has repeatedly called on Beijing and ...

Ecological impact

Ecological impact

The Philippines filed a formal plea at the UN last year, challenging Beijing's territorial claims. Manila said China's reclamation activities are causing "irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance of the South China Sea." It also claimed that the destruction of co...

Runway Expansion Facilities South Johnson Reef A naval base? From reef to island Troop garrison A standardized process 'Historic rights' Territorial disputes US concerns Ecological impact

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