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US troops land in Poland amid rising fears of Russian invasion of Ukraine

Local mayor says soldiers are from the US Army’s 82nd Division; Washington has said it will send 3,000 additional troops to eastern Europe to defend NATO members from ‘aggression’

US Army officers after arrival at the Rzeszow-Jasionka airport in southeastern Poland, on February 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
US Army officers after arrival at the Rzeszow-Jasionka airport in southeastern Poland, on February 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW — US soldiers arrived in Poland on Saturday as part of NATO moves to send in extra troops over fears that Russia could invade Ukraine, a Polish army spokesman told AFP.

“The first batch has arrived at the airport in Jesionka” in southwestern Poland, Major Przemyslaw Lipczynski said, adding that the bulk of a contingent of 1,700 US soldiers would come “soon.”

He said the soldiers who arrived Saturday were from the 82nd Division.

Washington said last week it would send about 3,000 additional troops to eastern Europe to defend NATO members against any “aggression.”

Washington is sending 2,000 troops stationed in the US. They are being flown to Germany and Poland. Another 1,000 already in Germany are being sent to Romania.

Western capitals have accused Russia of amassing some 100,000 troops on the borders of pro-Western Ukraine in preparation for an invasion and have vowed to impose devastating sanctions on Moscow if it attacks.

US Army equipment at the Rzeszow-Jasionka airport in southeastern Poland, on February 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

The US accused the Kremlin on Thursday of an elaborate plot to fabricate an attack by Ukrainian forces that Russia could use as a pretext to take military action against its neighbor.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the scheme included production of a graphic propaganda video that would show staged explosions and use corpses and actors depicting grieving mourners. The US has not provided detailed information backing up the claims.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was in Minsk on Thursday, checking on preparations for major Russia-Belarus war games scheduled for February 10 to February 20. Shoigu met with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Speaking about the drills, Lukashenko said the goal was “to reinforce the border with Ukraine.”

At the same time, Ukraine’s defense minister sought again to project calm, saying the probability of an invasion was “low,” and he welcomed a change by US officials, who have stopped using the term “imminent” when describing the risk of a Russian attack.

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