Russia Ukraine Live Updates: U.S. Takes Steps to Expose Russian 'Disinformation' in Ukraine

Live Updates
  • President Joe Biden warned Russia would pay a "heavy price" and face a "severe and coordinated'' economic response if any troops invade Ukraine.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is making stops in Ukraine, Germany and Switzerland this week in efforts to de-escalate Russian tensions against Ukraine.
  • Blinken met with European Allies in Berlin Thursday, calling the situation a crisis with global consequences that requires "global attention and action." He is set to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday.
  • The U.S. issued sanctions against four people connected to ongoing Russian-directed influence activities to destabilize Ukraine on Thursday.
  • Russia has amassed 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border.
  • A series of talks in Europe failed to ease tensions last week.
Ukraine, soldiers, eastern, border, January, 2022
Two Ukrainian soldiers with the 56th Brigade are seen in a trench on the front line on January 18, in Pisky, Ukraine. Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

The U.S. is taking actions to expose Russia's campaign of influence and disinformation in Ukraine

The Biden administration on Thursday imposed sanctions on four individuals accused of working at the direction of the Russian government to destabilize Ukraine.

The sanctions target two "pawns" of Russian intelligence in Ukraine and two ex-Ukrainian officials backing Russia, the Treasury said in a press release.

"The United States is taking action to expose and counter Russia's dangerous and threatening campaign of influence and disinformation in Ukraine," said Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo in the release. "We are committed to taking steps to hold Russia accountable for their destabilizing actions."

Blinken arrives in Geneva to meet with Russian leader

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with his Russian counterpart in Switzerland Friday, marking the final stop in his travels this week aimed at de-escalating Russian tensions against Ukraine.

Blinken landed in Geneva late Thursday ahead of a scheduled meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Friday's talks will focus on "bilateral concern" as Blinken urges Russia to take steps to de-escalate and remove troops along Ukraine's border.

"I'll urge that Russia find its way back to the agreements it swore to over the decades," Blinken said Thursday in Berlin, regarding the upcoming talks.

"To working with the United States and our allies and partners in Europe to write a future that can ensure our mutual security, but also make clear that that possibility will be extinguished by Russian aggression against Ukraine."

"These are difficult issues we're facing. Resolving them won't happen quickly. I certainly don't expect we'll solve them in Geneva tomorrow. But we can advance our mutual understanding," Blinken said.

The White House release details on Sullivan's B9 call

The White House released a statement on National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan's Call with B9 counterparts.

Today Sullivan briefed other national security advisors, foreign ministers, and other officials from the Bucharest Nine (B9) group of our eastern flank NATO Allies on U.S. diplomatic efforts related to Russia's destabilizing military buildup along Ukraine's border, according to a White House statement.

Sullivan also welcomed continued close coordination with the B9 countries on NATO deterrence and defense efforts. They also emphasized their commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression, including through continued provision of defensive assistance, the statement said.

Boris Johnson says it would be a 'disaster' if Russia invades Ukraine

British Prime Minster Boris Johnson said it would be a "disaster" if Russia invades Ukraine.

"Be in no doubt that if Russia were to make any kind of incursion into Ukraine on any scale," Johnson told reports Thursday, "I think that that would be a disaster, not just for Ukraine, but for Russia. It would be a disaster for the world."

He said the United Kingdom "stands squarely" behind the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine.

Johnson added that there was a discussion between France, Germany, Italy, the United States and the U.K about Russia's possible actions towards Ukraine.

U.S. working in 'lockstep' with allies

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki addressed President Joe Biden's position on how the U.S. would respond to the ongoing crisis between Russia and Ukraine during Thursday's press briefing.

"I can assure you that our allies and partners know exactly what the President's position is," Psaki told the press Thursday.

"They knew what it was yesterday. They knew during the press conference. They knew after the press conference, because we have been engaged closely and working in lockstep with them for weeks on the rising military threat posed by Russia."

Biden faced backlash for his "minor incursion" comments during Wednesday's press conference which he walked back Thursday morning, warning of a "severe and coordinated economic response" in the event of an invasion.

White House press secretary asked if Biden spoken to Ukraine president since his comments yesterday

An NBC reporter asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki if President Biden had spoken to President Zelensky since his comments yesterday about the actions he'll take if Russia invades Ukraine and Russia's military buildup at the Ukraine border.

"He has not, he has spoken with him a couple of times in the last month, but we have spoken at a very high level, but below [him]." Psaki responded.

Psaki then defended Biden's comments saying that when Biden said "minor incursion" yesterday at the press conference, he had the Russian paramilitary tactics and cyberattacks in mind.

Ukraine President Zelensky responded to the White House's correction of Biden's statement yesterday about a minor incursion stating, "we want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones. I say this as the President of a great power".

State Department shares Russia's top disinformation narratives

The U.S. State Department released the top five "persistent disinformation narratives" Russia is pushing "in an attempt to fill the information environment with false narratives about its actions in Ukraine."

"Over many years, Russia has fabricated a set of false narratives that its disinformation and propaganda ecosystem persistently injects into the global information environment," the State Department said in a statement.

"Russia is an innocent victim"

The U.S. said Russian officials "falsely portray Russia as a perpetual victim" and claims it aggressions are a forced response to actions of the U.S. and its allies.

After invading Ukraine in 2014, the State Department said the Russian government accused anyone who questioned Russia's actions of being "xenophobic Russophobes."

Historical Revisionism

The State Department accuses Russia of denying historical events and distorting narratives in order to cast Russia in a more favorable light to serve its political agenda.

Efforts include publishing "twisted" version of events to minimize and rationalize the alignment of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany and discredits the history of Ukraine statehood, NATO's conduct during the collapse of the Soviet Union and the GULAG prison system.

"The Collapse of Western Civilization is Imminent"

The U.S. said Russia claims Western civilization is collapsing and because it has strayed for "traditional values" by protecting the equality and safety of women, LGBTQI+ people and multiculturalism.

The State Department calls claims of the "decaying west" one of Russians oldest disinformation tropes, dating back to the 19th century.

"Popular Movements are U.S.-sponsored 'Color Revolutions'"

Russia has accused the U.S. of instigating uprising or plotting "color revolutions" and pro-democracy movements in former Soviet countries and throughout the Middle East and Africa.

The State Department said this is an attempt by the Kremlin to deny neighboring countries agency, dignity and the independent aspirations to advocate for themselves. The U.S. said this "baseless accusation" often targets local governments and independent media outlets working to expose human rights violations.

"The Kremlin has difficulty accepting that all individuals should have the human right to freedom of expression, and that the government should be accountable to its people," the State Department said.

Reality is Whatever the Kremlin Wants It to Be

The State Department said the Kremlin "frequently tries to create multiple false realities and insert confusions into the information environment when the truth is not in its interests."

The U.S. accuses Russian officials of shifting blame away from Russia and presenting "multiple conflicting narratives."

This includes state-funded disinformation outlets and weaponized social media to push propaganda and false narratives.

Blinken explains cause of crisis, Ukraine is trying to 'survive'

Russian President Vladimir Putin's failure to recognize the sovereignty of Ukraine has caused the current crisis between the two countries,

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says.

"In truth, this crisis is not primarily about weapons or military bases," Blinken said during his remarks Thursday at Atlantik-Brücke in Berlin. "It's about the sovereignty and self-determination of Ukraine."

"Ukraine isn't the aggressor here. Ukraine is just trying to survive," Blinken said, adding that Putin's 'true intentions' are clear.

"He's told us repeatedly, he's laying groundwork for an invasion because he doesn't believe that Ukraine is a sovereign nation. He said it flat out to President Bush in 2008, and I quote, 'Ukraine isn't a real country.' He said in 2020, and I quote, 'Ukrainians and Russians are one in the same people'."

Blinken then referenced a tweet posted by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs this week, celebrating the anniversary of Ukraine and Russia's unification in the year 1654.

"That's a pretty unmistakable message, this week, of all weeks," Blinken said.

"The stakes for Ukraine come more fully into view. This is not only about a possible invasion and war. It's about whether Ukraine has a right to exist as a sovereign nation. It's about whether Ukraine has a right to be a democracy," Blinken said.

Secretary Blinken states the outcome if Russia invaded Ukraine

Secretary Blinken explained what would happen if Russia invaded Ukraine.

"Russia's effort to turn neighbors into puppet states and suppress democratic expression will intensify", Blinken said.

"Once principles of sovereignty and self-determination are thrown out, revert to world where principles shaped for decades erode and vanish", he added.

"Government and citizens everywhere should care about what's happening in Ukraine", Blinken stated.

He noted that the principles that made world safer more stable for decades are what's at stake.

This comes after President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he thinks Russia will invade Ukraine and also warned President Vladimir Putin that his country would pay a "dear price" in lives lost and a possible cutoff from the global banking system if it does.

Biden warns Russia will pay a 'heavy' price for invasion

President Joe Biden said Russia would pay a "heavy price" if any troops invade Ukraine.

Biden made the remarks Thursday following criticism surrounding his comments during Wednesday's press conference, when he said a "minor incursion" by Russia into Ukraine would prompt a lesser response.

"I've been absolutely clear with President Putin," Biden said at the beginning of Thursday's infrastructure meeting.

"He has no misunderstanding. If any, any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion. It will be met with severe and coordinated economic response."

Biden said the response has been discussed in detail with allies and laid out "very clearly" for Putin.

"Let there be no doubt at all, if Putin makes this choice, Russia will pay a heavy price."

Biden recalled Russia's history of carrying out aggression using measures other than military action, including cyber-attacks, saying "we have to be ready to respond to these as well in a decisively united way with the range of tools at our disposal."

Russia says this crisis is about its national defense

"Russia claims this crisis is about its national defense - military exercises, weapons systems, and security agreements", Secretary Blinken said at a press conference in Germany.

He stated that if Russia's claims are true than the U.S. can resolve differences "peacefully and diplomatically".

Blinken listed the steps the administration can take to increase transparency which include reducing risks, advance arms control, and build trust.

"We've done successfully in past and do it again", Blinken said.

Blinken added that the Biden administration is willing to pursue a more stable and predictable relationship with Russia.

U.S. issues sanctions to target Russia's destabilization efforts in Ukraine

The United States has issued sanctions against four people connected to an ongoing effort by Russia to destabilize Ukraine.

"The United States is taking action to expose and counter Russia's dangerous and threatening campaign of influence and disinformation in Ukraine," Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement. "We are committed to taking steps to hold Russia accountable for their destabilizing actions."

The sanctions will target individuals, including two members of Ukraine's parliament, who act at the direction of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), an intelligence service sanctioned by the U.S. and its partners.

According to the State Department, the four individuals include Taras Kozak, Oleh Voloshyn, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Vladimir Sivkovich. These people supported Russia's efforts to undermine Ukraine and "the fundamental principles of democracy."

"The United States will continue to take steps, including through actions like this one, and in partnership with the Ukrainian government, to identify, expose, and undercut Russia's destabilization efforts in Ukraine," the Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. "The United States also will continue to expose and counter Russia's global campaign of malign influence, in Ukraine and beyond."

Crisis requires global 'attention and action,' Blinken says

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned there would be a "swift, severe" response from the United States and its allies if Russia sends any military forces into Ukraine.

Blinken made the comments during a press conference in Germany. Following talks with allies, Blinken made remarks about the ongoing crisis from Berlin.

"We will not treat the principles of sovereignty or territorial integrity as negotiable," Blinken said.

Blinken added the situation is "bigger than a conflict between two countries, and it's bigger than a clash between Russia and NATO. It's a crisis with global consequences. And it requires global attention and action."

"Russia has repeatedly turned away from agreements that have kept peace across the continent for decades," he said about the non-NATO member.

"[Russia] continues to take aims at NATO, a defensive alliance that protects nearly a billion people and governing principals of peace and security that we all have a stake in defending."

Secretary Blinken will meet with Russian officials

During a press conference, Secretary Antony Blinken stated that he is set to meet Russian officials to further efforts to deter Russian aggression against Ukraine.

"We are firm in our commitment to impose massive consequences and severe costs on Russia if it chooses conflict over diplomacy", Blinken said in a tweet.

Sec. Blinken arrives in Berlin

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Berlin, Germany to deliver remarks on the growing crisis in Ukraine.

Blinken met with Ukraine's president in Kyiv Wednesday, calling the trip "productive."

"I reaffirmed our unwavering support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Blinked said in a tweet.

"The United States is committed to strengthening our relationship with Ukraine as we work to deter further Russian aggression."

Blinken is set to meet with European Allies in Berlin Thursday.