‘We’re trying to prevent a world war’: Psaki suggests Putin using chemical weapons is NOT a ‘red line’ and US won’t send in troops and killing the Polish jet deal was to stop escalation
- White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggested that Vladimir Putin using chemical weapons was not a ‘red line’ for the United States
- She doubled down on President Joe Biden’s stance that the United States will not have boots on the ground in the Ukraine
- ‘I’m not going to get into hypotheticals,’ she noted. ‘But the president’s intention of sending U.S. military to fight in Ukraine against Russia has not changed’
- US and NATO forces are taking part in Operation Saber Strike in Estonia
- They were set for cold weather conditions
- Featured use of Stryker armored vehicles and Stinger missiles
- Allies have rushed Stingers into the hands of Ukrainian fighters as they battle Russia’s invasion
- VP Kamala Harris reaffirmed ‘The United States is prepared to defend every inch of NATO territory’
- But non-NATO countries near Russia fear they could suffer invasion as well
President Biden’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki
White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggested that Vladimir Putin using chemical weapons was not a ‘red line’ for the United States
Biden’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki has served as press secretary for Obama’s White House and the State Department in her political career.
She was born in Stamford, Connecticut in 1978 and studied English and Sociology at the College of William and Mary, before making her way up the Democrat Party to represent the US at the highest diplomatic levels.
Her appointment as White House press secretary under Biden ruffled feathers on the Right after a photo emerged of her wearing a pink Russian hat next to John Kerry and Putin’s lapdog Sergei Lavrov.
The photo was taken in January 2014 when Psaki represented the State Department. Sources close to Psaki told USA Today that the hat was a gift from the Russian government, and that she did not keep it.
She doubled down on President Joe Biden‘s stance that America won’t have boots on the ground in the Ukraine. And she refused to say what – if anything – would change that.
‘I’m not going to get into red lines from here,’ Psaki said from her podium in the White House briefing room.
‘I’m not going to get into hypotheticals,’ she noted. ‘But the president’s intention of sending U.S. military to fight in Ukraine against Russia has not changed.’
American officials have expressed concern that Russia could use chemical weapons after the Russian Defense Ministry said Ukraine could make such a move, in what U.S. officials say could be a false flag operation to justify any moves by Moscow.
The Russian president has shown no sign in letting up of his invasion of the Ukraine. Officials for the two sides – meeting in Turkey – left the negotiation table with no ceasefire in place nor an agreement for safe passage for Ukrainian civilians caught in the war zone.
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko also said on Thursday that Ukraine’s capital city has been ‘turned into a fortress’ ahead of the Russian assault, with about two million people – half the residents of the metro area of the capital – having fled as Putin’s troops draw ever closer.
But Psaki indicated there would be some kind of response to such a Russian move, saying the administration was trying ‘to prevent a World War Three.’
‘We have not let anything go unanswered that President Putin has done to date,’ Psaki noted, adding ‘what that would look like I can’t give you an assessment of that from here at this point.’
The U.S. has responded to the Russian invasion with heavy economic sanctions on Putin himself, his inner circle, the oligarchs made billionaires by his policies, and Russian banks and companies. The Kremlin called those moves an ‘economic war.’
Psaki noted that American concerns Moscow would use chemical weapons is based on past incidents. U.S. officials have raised the possibility Russia could escalate the fighting as Ukrainian resistance remains strong.
‘They have a history of using chemical and biological weapons, and that in this moment, we should have our eyes open for that possibility use of chemical or biological weapons,’ Psaki said.
Russia has wielded chemical weapons in the past.
Moscow used the deadly Novichok poison in 2018 an attempt to assassinate a defector living in Salisbury, England. And it is suspected of using a similar poison against opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 2020.
Russia also offered diplomatic cover to Syrian use of chemical agents. It accused the West of being behind the 2017 attack on Khan Shaykhun with Sarin or similar nerve agent.
Biden’s administration is continuing its diplomatic efforts, pushing for a cease fire before fighting continues to escalate. Biden spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday after peace talks being held there failed to produce any progress.
The two men ‘reaffirmed their strong support for the government and people of Ukraine, underscored the need for an immediate cessation of Russian aggression, and welcomed the coordinated international response to the crisis,’ the White House said in a readout of its call.
‘President Biden expressed appreciation for Turkey’s efforts to support a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, as well as Turkey’s recent engagements with regional leaders that help promote peace and stability,’ the White House said.
U.S. troops prepare to fire Stinger missiles from their Stryker armored fighting vehicle during Saber Strike military drill in Rutja, Estonia March 10, 2022. U.S. and allied forces carried out military exercises in Estonia Thursday
U.S. troops fire Stinger missile from their Stryker armored fighting vehicle during Saber Strike military drill in Rutja, Estonia March 10, 2022. The U.S. and allies have delivered shoulder-fired Stingers to Ukraine
As of January the US has 60,000 troops in Europe and has since added more during Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Psaki and the White House has insisted since the start of the Ukraine invasion that the US will not send in troops
CIA director Burns says chemical weapon use is ‘part of Russia’s playbook’ and Director of National Intelligence slams Russian nuclear lab propaganda
U.S. intelligence chiefs on Thursday denounced what they said was a classic Russian disinformation campaign accusing Washington of backing biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine, which they said could set the scene for Russia to launch its own chemical attacks.
C.I.A. Director Bill Burns and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines both said there was no evidence that Ukraine was developing weapons of mass destruction.
Instead, they joined a chorus of warnings that Moscow could be preparing a fake narrative before it unleashed its own chemical arsenal.
‘I think it underscores the concern that all of us need to focus on those kinds of issues, whether it’s the potential for a use of chemical weapons either as a false flag operation or against Ukrainians,’ Burns told the Senate intelligence committee.
‘This is something as all of you know very well is very much a part of Russia’s playbook.
‘They’ve used those weapons against their own citizens. They’ve at least encouraged the use in Syria and elsewhere.
‘So it’s something we take very seriously.’
Concerns flared a day earlier, when Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claimed, without evidence, that Ukraine was running chemical and biological weapons labs with U.S. support.
The claims are not new, but have circulated as debunked conspiracy theories that have been spread by the likes of QAnon-linked websites.
On Thursday, the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that it had uncovered U.S. and Ukrainian plans to spread flu with birds.
‘At least two species of migratory birds were identified, the routes of which pass mainly through Russia, and information on migration routes through the countries of Eastern Europe was also summarized,’ it said in a release.
It comes as military analysts have warned that the war could take a brutal turn as Putin switches tactics after his forces failed to make the rapid breakthrough he expected.
And Vice President Kamala Harris is in Poland where she vowed to defend ‘every inch’ of NATO territory Thursday as US troops fired Stinger missiles during military drills in Estonia and Russian troops moved within a few miles of Kyiv.
The forces carried out air defense drills in cold weather exercises in coastal areas of Estonia, a NATO ally, with U.S., British, Estonian, as well as forces from Finland – NATO partner but not a member of the alliance.
‘They take place in the winter to demonstrate the ability to operate in harsh conditions,’ Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in late February when announcing the Operation Saber Strike exercises.
During the exercises, allied troops used Stryker armored vehicles Thursday to fire Stinger missiles – the same weapons the U.S. and allies are rushing into the hands of Ukrainian forces resisting the Russian invasion. According to the Pentagon, Ukrainian forces have been using weaponry provided by allied nations to well – and video images have revealed a succession of destroyed Russian armor during the two-week old war.
The exercises are also meant to practice and demonstrate the complex coordinated maneuvers NATO forces have trained for – amid signs of severe Russian problems with supply lines and coordinated air and ground forces during their two-week old invasion of Ukraine.
But the White House said the move was not meant to be aggressive against Russia. The Biden administration has repeatedly said it doesn’t want to start a war, using that as its reason to oppose Poland’s plan to supply the Ukraine with Polish-owned MiG planes.
‘I think, for people to understand how we look at this, which is that there’s an escalation ladder, right,’ Psaki explained. ‘And there’s difference between an anti tank weapon, a shoulder fired missile, and aircraft and a fighter jet that could cross the border and actually conduct operations on Russian soil.’
With temperatures in parts of Ukraine dropping to -10 C, military experts are warning Russian tanks stranded in a convoy south of Kiev could turn into ”40-ton freezers,’ given fuel supply issues.
It call comes as Vice President Kamala Harris vowed in Warsaw that the U.S. would defend ‘every inch’ of NATO territory – while allied nations scrambled to funnel arms to Ukraine in what has become the largest arms effort since the Cold War.
‘During Saber Strike, we’re conducting air and missile defense training with our NATO allies,’ U.S. Army Col. Patrick Thompson, commander of the 164th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, said in an Estonian Defense Ministry release, Estonian Public Broadcasting outlet ERR News reported. ‘This training helps build interoperability between our NATO allies and our partners.’
The exercises took part in other NATO countries earlier in the week, with activities in Lithuania March 1. The Polish phase concluded March 5. It all involves 13,000 troops from 13 nations.
At the start of her trip to Warsaw, Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday announced that the U.S. had delivered two batteries of Patriot air defense missiles to the NATO ally.
‘Today I can announce that we have delivered those Patriot missiles systems to Poland,’ she said at the start of a press briefing with Polish President Duda.
The defense systems are positioned to allow Poland and other allies contend with any stray missiles or incursions from neighboring Ukraine amid Russia’s ongoing assault.
She said the U.S. had recently deployed 4,700 U.S. troops to Poland, on top of a typical rotation of about 5,000.
Her comments came even after U.S. officials were caught off guard by Poland’s statement this week about transferring MiG fighter jets to U.S. control for NATO delivery to Ukraine. The Pentagon said the idea was not ‘tenable.’
‘I want to be very clear. The United States and Poland are united in what we have done and are prepared to help Ukraine and the people of Ukraine, full stop,’ Harris said.
The United States is prepared to defend every inch of NATO territory. The United States takes seriously that an attack against one is an attack against all,’ Harris said.
But there are still grave concerns among non-NATO members about whether Putin may be eyeing further territory.
A Russian armoured vehicle sits by the side of the road in Brovary, to the east of Kyiv, after being destroyed in an artillery and rocket ambush that caused heavy casualties
The complex operations were deliberately set for cold weather conditions
Troops from the U.S., Great Britain, and Estonia all took part
Members of Lithuania Armed forces during Saber Strike military training on March 1, 2022 in Kazlu Ruda, Lithuania
DONETSK, UKRAINE – MARCH 8: A view of a tank after a shelling, in the pro-Russian separatists-controlled Donetsk, Ukraine on March 8, 2022
A destroyed Russian tank is seen abandoned by the side of the road in Brovary, to the east of Kyiv, as Putin’s men try to push into the outskirts of the capital
The attack on Brovary (pictured) came as Russian troops also attacked in Irpin, to the west, though they made ‘little progress’ with a Ukrainian counter-attack underway in the early hours
Drone footage released by the Ukrainian military showed shells raining down on the convoy, destroying a number of tanks and armoured vehicles – as intercepted radio chatter suggested ‘heavy’ losses among Russian troops
Air traffic is brisk on Thursday at the US Air Base in Ramstein. Since the crisis in Ukraine, flight movements on the largest US air force base outside the USA have increased significantly
Ukraine war: The latest
Ukraine accuses Russia of a ‘war crime’ over a devastating attack on a children’s hospital
Some 1,207 civilians have been killed in the 10-day Russian siege on Mariupol, its mayor says
Red Cross calls situation in Mariupol ‘apocalyptic’ after more than a week without water, power or heat
35,000 civilians are evacuated from other Ukrainian cities during a 12-hour ceasefire
Fears are mounting Kyiv will also soon be encircled, with Russian tanks just a few miles away
Two women and a 13-year-old boy are killed overnight in bombing near Sumy overnight
Four people are killed in bombing on Kharkiv, with a five-year-old girl rushed to hospital wounded
US lawmakers pass a $14bn aid package for Ukraine with Canada pledging more military equipment
The International Monetary Fund approves $1.4 billion in emergency financing for Ukraine
The United States deploys two new Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries in Poland
Fearing a wider conflict, the Pentagon rejects a Polish offer to give MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine
Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers are in Turkey to hold face-to-face talks
Britain calls on the G7 to ban Russian oil, but move is opposed by France, Germany, Italy and Japan
Nuclear watchdog says it is not receiving updates from either Chernobyl or Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plants, both of which are in Russian hands
Washington rejects Russian claims it funded bioweapons research in Ukraine, and warns Russia could be about to use chemical or biological weapons itself
UN says at least 2.2 million people have fled Ukraine, with more than half now in Poland
Oil prices tumble while US and European and Asian stocks surge after days of market turmoil
For some European countries watching Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine, there are fears that they could be next.
Western officials say the most vulnerable could be those who aren’t members of NATO or the European Union, and thus alone and unprotected – including Ukraine’s neighbour Moldova and Russia’s neighbour Georgia, both of them formerly part of the Soviet Union – along with the Balkan states of Bosnia and Kosovo.
But analysts warn that even NATO members could be at risk, such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on Russia’s doorstep, as well as Montenegro, either from Moscow’s direct military intervention or attempts at political destabilization.
President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili told DailyMail.com about the surprise shortcomings the fight in Ukraine revealed in Russia’s military, which invaded Georgia in 2008.
‘We know that after the Georgian Russian war, there has been a massive effort to modernize the [Russian] military, massive resources that were devoted to that. So it’s a bit strange that they didn’t get more for that money, so whether it’s corruption, whether it’s inefficiency, I didn’t know,’ she said.
A diplomatic effort between the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine showed little sign of progress on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the various allied efforts to arm Ukraine has developed into the largest arms push since the Cold War, the Financial Times reported.
The nations have plowed in anti-armor weapons, drones, ammunition, fuel, and artillery shells.
In one odd but potentially crucial development, the Pentagon found a workaround to ship anti-aircraft Stinger missiles to Ukraine by removing a few screws from a controller that contained classified information, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The firepower has helped slow, but not stop, the Russian advance.
Russian tanks were able to push to within just a few miles of the outskirts of Kiev, though initial assaults to the west and east of the capital were repelled as Vladimir Putin’s forces face a long and bloody campaign to try and take the capital.
Kremlin troops launched two attacks on Kyiv Wednesday – one via the besieged western city of Irpin and another through the eastern district of Brovary, with video showing how a column of Russian tanks and armored vehicles was bombarded with artillery in a devastating ambush and forced to turn back.
Colonel Andrei Zakharov, commander of the tank regiment, was also killed in the ambush according to the Ukrainian defense ministry and radio chatter intercepted from Russians on the battlefield. The same transmissions suggested the column suffered heavy losses, with one tank and an armored vehicle destroyed.
It marks just the latest Russian commander to be killed in Ukraine, after two generals were slain by Kyiv’s troops. Colonel Zakharov had been awarded the Order of Courage by Vladimir Putin in 2016.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘has said right from the start that this is not only about Ukraine,’ said Michal Baranowski, director of the German Marshall Fund’s Warsaw office.
‘He told us what he wants to do when he was listing his demands, which included the change of the government in Kyiv, but he was also talking about the eastern flank of NATO and the rest of Eastern Europe,’ Baranowski said.
For some European countries watching Vladimir Putin’s brutal war in Ukraine, there are fears that they could be next
40th Cavalry Regiment conducts an airborne infiltration and insert as opposing forces for Alaska’s first Home Station Combat Training Center rotation
The parachute training came as part of Alaska’s first Home Station Combat Training Center rotation
As Ukraine puts up stiff resistance to the brutal Russian attack, Baranowski said ‘it’s now not really clear how he’ll carry out his other goals.’
But Western governments and NATO are acutely aware of deep concerns in Eastern and Central Europe that the war in Ukraine may be just a prelude to broader attacks on former Warsaw Pact members in trying to restore Moscow’s regional dominance.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said that ‘Russia is not going to stop in Ukraine.’
‘We are concerned for neighbors Moldova, Georgia, and the Western Balkans,’ he said. ‘We have to keep an eye on Western Balks, particularly Bosnia, which could face destabilization by Russia.’
Sarin gas in Syria and Putin’s ‘poisoning’ of political enemies like Alexei Navalny: Russia’s dark and ‘well-documented’ ties to chemical weapons and the Soviet ‘bioweapon’ lab that’s sparked US fears
The White House raised fresh concerns on Wednesday that Russia could use biological weapons in a dramatic escalation of its invasion of Ukraine.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki condemned Kremlin accusations that the United States was building a bioweapons lab in Ukraine as ‘preposterous’ and pointed out that it was Russian President Vladimir Putin who had a history of using such horrific methods to take out his enemies.
Meanwhile, attention has turned to a Soviet-era research facility in Siberia that could be where Putin stores a terrifying ‘bioweapons arsenal.’ The State Department indicated last year that Russia is running a bioweapons program, though the Kremlin denied the allegation.
‘It’s Russia that has a long and well-documented track record of using chemical weapons, including in attempted assassinations and poisoning of Putin’s political enemies like Alexey Navalny,’ Psaki wrote on Twitter Wednesday. ‘It’s Russia that continues to support the Assad regime in Syria, which has repeatedly used chemical weapons. It’s Russia that has long maintained a biological weapons program in violation of international law.’
Putin previously shielded his ally, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, from a United Nations investigation into his use of chemical weapons on civilians in the country’s ongoing civil war.
Human Rights Watch found that at least 85 chemical weapons attacks occurred in Syria between 2013 and 2018, the majority of which they blamed on the Russian-backed Syrian government.
Both Moscow and Damascus have denied the government’s use of bioweapons even though Assad admitted to stockpiling them in a 2013 Fox interview.
On 2018 an apparent sarin gas attack in the city of Douma was reported to have killed an estimated 40 to 50 people.
Putin has previously given cover to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad when he was accused of using chemical weapons on his own people
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Russia could ‘possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine’ after the Kremlin accused the United States of building a bioweapons lab in Ukraine
Russian officials claimed after an ‘inspection’ of the site that the attack had been staged by Western governments.
The US State Department had accused Russia of working with Syria ‘to sanitize the locations of the suspected attacks and remove incriminating evidence of chemical weapons use.’
Putin has also been accused of using chemical weapons to carry out targeted attacks — such as those against Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny and former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal.
Navalny, one of the autocrat’s highest-profile critics in recent years, fell ill on a domestic flight to Moscow in August 2020. He was taken to a Russian hospital after the plane made an emergency landing but was flown to Berlin for treatment two days later upon his wife’s insistence.
Labs in Germany, France and Sweden, and tests by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, detected that he was exposed to the Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent.
Navalny was arrested when he returned to Russia in January 2021 and has been incarcerated ever since, despite international calls for his release.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied having a role in poisoning Navalny. Putin laughed off accusations he was responsible when asked at an event in December 2020, and suggested it was a ‘trick’ pulled to raise the opposition leader’s profile.
Navalny’s poisoning was not the first time Putin was tied to Novichok, however.
Putin critic Alexei Navalny (seen in a video link from a prison during a court session in December 2021) was poisoned with the Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent, multiple countries have said
Two years earlier, former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal (right) and his daughter Yulia Skripal (left) were poisoned by what British officials have said is Novichok
On March 4, 2018 former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal were found unconscious on a park bench in the city of Salisbury, England.
A witness told the BBC he saw Yulia on the park bench foaming at the mouth and her eyes ‘were wide open but completely white.’
Skripal was previously convicted of ‘high treason’ by a Russian court in 2006 for allegedly revealing the identities of Europe-based Russian agents to the UK’s MI6 intelligence agency.
British authorities identified the poisonous substance as Novichok and accused Russia of attempted murder. They claim Russian agents flew to England, applied the nerve agent to Skripal’s door handle and then left the country, according to the New York Times. The Kremlin has denied any involvement.
Former UK Prime Minister Theresa May said at the time, ‘Either this was a direct action by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.’
A Salisbury resident died in June of that year after applying perfume her boyfriend brought home a perfume bottle he found in the trash. Her boyfriend fell ill but survived. British law enforcement believes they succumbed to the same poison as the Skripals.
It appears Putin could have a whole stockpile of chemical weapons stored in what looks like a villain’s lair straight out of a James Bond film.
But this is the Soviet-era facility in Siberia where Vladimir Putin‘s arsenal of bioweapons may be being housed today.
The State Centre for Research on Virology and Biotechnology in Novosibirsk Oblast is in possession of devastating diseases like smallpox and anthrax, as well as more recent killer pathogens like Ebola.
Opened during the height of the Cold War in 1974 as a bioterrorism research centre, it is still one of Russia‘s most heavily guarded sites, fenced off with barbed-wire with armed soldiers permanently stationed at its gates.
The 70,000sqft centre is about the same size as a football pitch and is one of 100 research and administrative buildings in the facility, known in Russia as ‘Vector’.
It is one of just 59 maximum-security biolabs in the world, a status it shares with the Wuhan Institute of Virology — the site at the centre of the origins of the Covid pandemic.
The State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology, known as Vector (pictured), released a statement saying a gas cylinder exploded on the fifth floor in 2019
Vector has clearance to handle the world’s deadliest pathogens and workers responsible for studying the viruses wear military green, full-body hazmat suits.
The secretive level four facility is nestled in the foothills of southwestern Siberia on the border of Kazakhstan, one of the harshest and most isolated places on earth, where temperatures can plunge to as low as -35C in winter.
Russia claims the lab, one of a dozen involved in the USSR’s manufacturing of bioweapons, shut down research into the weapons in 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Officially, the lab now focuses on developing vaccines for lethal viruses. Last year it launched research into prehistoric viruses found in paleolithic horses recovered from melted permafrost in Siberia.
But a US State Department report last year claimed Russia ‘maintains an offensive biological weapons program’ despite the country insisting it had ceased such research.
It comes after the US ambassador to the United Nations claimed that Putin could use bioweapons to overthrow the Ukrainian Government, warning ‘nothing is off the table’ for the Russian dictator.