The Biden administration will provide additional weapons and security assistance to Ukraine later this week, as the U.S. has collected “ample evidence” and intelligence that Russia is laying the groundwork to annex additional sovereign Ukrainian territory.
White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby on Tuesday said that downgraded intelligence shows that Russia is beginning to roll out an “annexation playbook” — similar to its plans in 2014 as it annexed Crimea.
Kirby said Russia is installing “illegitimate proxy officials.”
“We know their next moves,” Kirby said, noting proxy officials will “arrange a sham referendum on joining Russia. Then Russia will sue those sham referenda as a basis to try to claim annexation of sovereign Ukrainian territory.”
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“The Russian government is reviewing detailed plans to purportedly annex a number of regions in Ukraine” Kirby said, including “all of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblast.”
Kirby said Russia is attempting to set the conditions on the ground by seeking to establish “branches of Russian banks to establish the ruble as the default currency in these areas and to sabotage civilian internet access.”
In Kherson, Kirby said Russia has taken control of broadcasting towers, established “loyalist security forces” and replaced telecommunications infrastructure. Kirby said the Kremlin has also forced residents to apply for Russian citizenship, and are issuing Russian passports.
“The Kremlin has not disclosed the timeline for the referendum, but Russian proxies in these territories claim they will take place later this year, possibly in conjunction with Russia’s September regional elections,” Kirby explained.
Annexation by force, Kirby said, would be a “gross violation of the U.N. charter.”
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“We will not allow it to go unchallenged or unpunished,” he said, adding that the U.S. will “continue to provide Ukraine with historic levels of security assistance.”
The Biden administration, later this week, is now expected to announce the 16th presidential drawdown package of weapons and equipment for Ukraine since President Biden took office.
Kirby said the package is expected to include more HIMARS — also known as highly-mobile advanced rocket systems, and additional rounds of multiple launch rocket systems and artillery ammunition.
“We’re also going to continue to expose Russian plans so the world knows that any purported annexation is premeditated, illegal and illegitimate,” Kirby said, adding that the Biden administration is also sanctioning the “Russian-installed puppets and proxies” in areas of Ukraine that are under Russian control.
“If Russia nevertheless proceeds with their annexation plans, we’re going to respond swiftly and severely and in lockstep with our allies and partners,” Kirby continued. “Russia will face additional sanctions and become even more of a global pariah than it is now.”
He added that the U.S. “will never recognize any purportedly annexed territories belonging to Russia,” and said the Biden administration will “support accountability, efforts for forced deportations, prosecutions of oppositionists and other gross human rights abuses carried out by Russia.”
The president, in May, signed a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine. The package included additional security assistance for Ukraine, including $5 billion in additional drawdown authority, $6 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, and $4 billion for the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing program.
The package came after the Biden administration in April announced a separate $800 million in military aid, including heavy artillery and ammunition, as the country continues to fight to defend itself against Russia’s multi-front war. That funding was in addition to an authorization of $800 million in weapons, ammunition and other security assistance earlier this month.
That $1.6 billion the president approved in April for Ukraine came in addition to the more than $1 billion the Biden administration had already sent to Ukraine.