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White House: Russia laying groundwork for annexing Ukraine territory

Unveiling what he said was U.S. 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 ruble as the default currency and force residents to apply for citizenship.

Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan meet in Tehran
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan Tuesday in Tehran, Iran.
Sputnik via Reuters
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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.

Unveiling what he said was U.S. 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 ruble 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.

Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kramatorsk
A police officer helps an elderly woman leave her flat in a residential building damaged by a Russian military strike Tuesday amid Russia's invasion on Ukraine, in Kramatorsk, in Donetsk region, Ukraine.
Gleb Garanich / Reuters

"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."

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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.

Russia is now also attempting to take control of broadcasting towers, he said.

At the same time, Kirby said the United States in the next few days will announce a new weapons package for Ukraine as it engages Russia in fierce battles in eastern Ukraine.

It will be the 16th such drawdown of money approved by Congress and allocated under presidential authority, he said.

The package is expected to include U.S. mobile rocket launchers, known as HIMARS, and rounds for Multiple Launch Rocket Systems as well as artillery munitions.

The United States has provided $8 billion in security assistance since the war began, including $2.2 billion in the last month.

Washington will impose sanctions on officials involved in representing themselves as proxy officials, Kirby said. He predicted these proxies to try to hold "sham referenda" seeking to legitimatize Russian control.

Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kramatorsk
A local resident looks out through a broken window in his flat in a residential building damaged by a Russian military strike Tuesday amid Russia's invasion on Ukraine, in Kramatorsk, in Donetsk region, Ukraine.
Gleb Garanich / Reuters
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Related Topics: UKRAINERUSSIA
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