Russia laying groundwork for annexing Ukraine territory: White House

WASHINGTON: Russia is laying the groundwork for the annexation of Ukrainian territory and is installing illegitimate proxy officials in areas there under its control as it seeks to exert total control over its gains in the east, the White House said on Tuesday (Jul 19).

Unveiling what he said was US intelligence, John Kirby, the chief National Security Council spokesman, told a White House news briefing that the Russians are preparing to install proxy officials, establish the rouble as the default currency and force residents to apply for citizenship.

“We have information today, including from downgraded intelligence that we’re able to share with you, about how Russia is laying the groundwork to annex Ukrainian territory that it controls in direct violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty,” Kirby said.

It is the same tactic used in 2014 when Russia announced its annexation of Crimea after taking control of it from Ukraine, Kirby said. The international community considers Crimea’s annexation illegitimate.

“We want to make it plain to the American people,” Kirby said. “Nobody is fooled by it. (Russian President Vladimir Putin) is dusting off the playbook from 2014.”

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb 24 in what it calls a “special military operation” to ensure its own security.