The head of the All-Russian Officers Association, Leonid Ivashov, a retired general who served as the head of military cooperation in the Russian Defense Ministry and was close to Putin, warned of the consequences of invading Ukraine, accusing the president of fomenting an “artificial” conflict to distract from Russia’s internal problems.
Ivashov wrote an open letter in which he criticized Putin’s policies, and said that the president “seeks to enter a war even though Moscow does not face any serious threats.”
The senior military official said in his message, which was published by Western media, that he feared that Russia would become “pariahed by the international community” if it launched an invasion of Ukraine.
“External threats certainly exist, but according to the assessment of military experts, they are not currently critical, and do not directly threaten Russia’s existence or its vital interests,” he said.
He considered that “the explosive situation on the border between Russia and Ukraine is primarily artificial.”
According to Ivashov’s letter, “Ukraine has the right to defend itself as an independent state,” which heralds a war that “may lead to the loss of tens of thousands of lives,” according to his expression.
He continued, “On the battlefield, Russian forces will face not only Ukrainian soldiers, among whom are many Russian men, but also troops and equipment from many NATO countries, where the member states of the alliance will be obligated to do so. We declare war on Russia.”
The Russian general’s warnings coincide with upcoming talks between French President Emmanuel Macron and Putin in Moscow, on Monday, to try to calm the tense situation over Ukraine.
Russia’s buildup of about 100,000 troops near Ukraine has raised fears in the West of a military attack, with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warning Sunday that Russia could invade Ukraine “any day”, leading to a conflict that could have a huge human cost.
Russia denied any plans to attack its neighbor, but it demanded the United States and its allies to prevent Ukraine and other former Soviet countries from joining NATO, and to stop the spread of weapons there, while Washington and NATO rejected these demands.
Before heading to Moscow, Macron had a phone call on Sunday with US President Joe Biden, and the White House said in a statement that the two leaders discussed diplomatic efforts and ongoing deterrence efforts in response to the ongoing Russian military buildup on Ukraine’s borders, and affirmed their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
In continuation of high-level diplomatic efforts, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is scheduled to meet Biden on Monday for talks expected to focus on the Ukraine crisis, while Schulz will travel to Kiev and Moscow on February 14-15.