U.S. Predicts Russia Will Step Up Attacks On Civilians in Ukraine –The White House issued a warning this week that the Kremlin is preparing to step up airstrikes against Ukrainian civilian targets and government buildings over the next week. The warning comes as the White House also urges all Americans remaining in the country to leave immediately.
The United States Embassy in Kyiv warned that U.S. citizens should leave the country using “privately available ground transportation options” as long as it is safe to do so. American citizens in Ukraine received the warning via an online security alert issued by the State Department on the embassy website on Monday.
“The Department of State has information that Russia is stepping up efforts to launch strikes against Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and government facilities in the coming days,” the update reads. “Russian strikes in Ukraine pose a continued threat to civilians and civilian infrastructure. The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to depart Ukraine now using privately available ground transportation options if it is safe to do so.”
American citizens in the country were also urged to “immediately seek cover” if they hear sirens, and to be aware that even if incoming missiles or drone strikes are intercepted, falling debris can also pose a significant safety risk.
The update said that the security situation across the entirety of Ukraine is “highly volatile” and that conditions could deteriorate “without warning.”
Analysis: Why Now?
There are at least three reasons why Moscow is likely to step up its military strikes in major Ukrainian population centers in the coming days and weeks. The first is that Ukraine has seen significant victories in recent weeks, destroying at least nine Russian aircraft at the Saki airbase in Crimea. Pro-Russia saboteurs also caused explosions at other Russian military facilities in Crimea, and Ukrainian forces have proven capable of defending against increased Russian aggression in south-eastern parts of the country.
If Russia wants to gain ground, it needs to step up its offense, and launching strikes on civilian areas within the country could potentially force Ukraine to redirect its military resources to areas in central Ukraine. The move could also send a message to Kyiv and NATO allies that Moscow isn’t giving up on its efforts to “demilitarize” the country and take control of the capital city of Kyiv.
Russia may also be motivated to launch strikes this week as Ukrainian civilians celebrate the country’s 31st anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union, a symbolic attack on a country seeking to separate itself entirely from Russia and Putin’s plans to re-establish a Russian empire.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.