Russian threat to Ukraine to remain critical in February, intelligence official says

Brussels (Reuters) – Russian military exercises are at their peak stage and the risk of Russian aggression against Ukraine will remain high for the rest of February, a senior Western intelligence official said.

The senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Western intelligence had established that the greatest period of risk of conflict or an unintended military incident was at the present time.

“We’re in it now. I expect things to be really confusing and ambiguous for the next couple of weeks,” the official said.

Russia said more of its forces surrounding Ukraine were withdrawing on Wednesday, after it announced the end to some military exercises on Tuesday.

“We are at a peak period where the exercises that the Russians had announced are in their active phases,” the official said, adding that Russia would likely fire ballistic missiles eastwards from Belarus as part of its drills over the next few months.

“There are no credible signs at this point that there will be any kind of military de-escalation,” the official said.

Russia could now attack Ukraine “with essentially no, or little-to-no, warning,” the official said.

Western intelligence also pointed to Russia’s ability to maintain the current forces in place for several more months if Russian President Vladimir Putin so wished, the official said.

Russia has repeatedly said it has no plans to invade Ukraine and that it is carrying out military drills on its territory.