In addition to the more than 100,000 Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s borders, officials are warning Vladimir Putin could target the country with a cyberwar campaign, further complicating the already dramatic state of affairs.
“No one has ever waged a cyber conflict,” US Senator Marco Rubio told Bloomberg on Monday. “These things could rapidly escalate into something far more dangerous. So this is a very tense moment.”
Russia is already waging cyberattacks against Ukraine, according to officials there, who believe a long campaign of destabilizing “hybrid” warfare is more likely than an all-out land campaign.
“The No. 1 task for Russia is to undermine us from inside,” Oleksiy Danilov, the top national security adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, told The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.
Russia is also thought to have hacked into the Ukrainian power grid during the prolonged standoff that led to the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and other parts of the country’s east beginning in 2014.
Russia, for its part, says it has no plans to invade or harm Ukraine and that the US is harming the country by seeking to integrate it into Nato and other western alliances.
Efforts at a diplomatic resolution continue, with German chancellor Olaf Scholz currently visiting Moscow, and Russia formulating its response to US proposals to head off the crisis.
Still, by most indications, Russia is on a war footing, with more than half of its military’s battalion groups massed around Ukraine, as well as tanks, artillery, warplanes, ballistic missiles, and naval vessels all getting into forwarding positions near the country — with Kiev and regime change as their main target.
Mr. Zelensky said he believed an invasion could come as soon as Wednesday, though an adviser later clarified the leader was being sarcastic and mocking western panic about the escalating situation.
Mr. Zelensky has called for a Ukrainian “day of unity” on Wednesday.
“We will hoist national flags, put on blue and yellow ribbons and show the world our unity,” he said recently.
Leaders in the US and UK have said there’s still a “crucial window” open for a diplomatic resolution, but warned that Mr. Putin stands on the “edge of a precipice.”
On Monday evening, Joe Biden and Boris Johnson spoke about their response to the Ukraine situation, with a No 10 spokesperson relaying that “the leaders emphasised that any further incursion into Ukraine would result in a protracted crisis for Russia, with far-reaching damage for both Russia and the world.”
On Monday, the US State Department announced it was relocating its embassy staff from capital Kyiv to Lviv, in the country’s less contested west, amid fears of an imminent invasion.