Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rejected US allegations that Russia is preparing a pretext to invade Ukraine, dismissing the claim as “total disinformation.”
US officials had warned on Friday that a Russian effort was underway to create a pretext for its troops to invade Ukraine.
“We are concerned that the Russian government is preparing for an invasion in Ukraine that may result in widespread human rights violations and war crimes should diplomacy fail to meet their objectives,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki at a briefing.
“As part of its plans, Russia’s laying the groundwork to have the option of fabricating a pretext for invasion.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Lavrov said Russia is expecting a written response from the US this week to their request for guarantees that NATO will not expand to former Soviet nations, something Washington and its allies have rejected.
US and Western officials have been concerned about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine for weeks, as tens of thousands of Russian troops have gathered at the neighbouring country’s border.
The US warning came following negotiations between Russia and the US in Europe aimed at halting the escalating crisis.
Speaking on Monday during a visit to Kyiv, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned that “any further escalation would carry a high price for the Russian regime, economic, political and strategic”.
“We are prepared to have a serious dialogue with Russia, because diplomacy is the only way to defuse this highly dangerous situation,” she said.
Last week, Ukraine suffered a “massive cyberattack” that the country’s security services said came from Russian-linked hackers.
Seven ministry websites were down as well as the cabinet, treasury, emergency service and state services websites. A message during the hack warned Ukrainians to “expect the worst”.
Russia has denied having plans to attack Ukraine, accusing the country’s leadership of hatching plans to reclaim control of rebel-held territories in the east. Ukrainian authorities have denied it.
Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 after the ouster of Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly leader and also threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.
More than 14,000 people have been killed in nearly eight years of fighting there.