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WAR IN EUROPE

White House says Russia laying groundwork for annexing Ukraine territory

A Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-25 jet buzzes low in the sky on 16 June 2022 in the Donetsk region, Ukraine. (Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images)

Russia is laying the groundwork for the annexation of Ukrainian territory and is installing illegitimate proxy officials in areas there under its control, the White House said on Tuesday.

Unveiling what he said was US intelligence, John Kirby, the chief National Security Council spokesperson, told a White House news briefing that the Russians are preparing to install proxy officials, establish the rouble as the default currency and force residents to apply for citizenship.

Russia is also attempting to take control of broadcasting towers, he said.

At the same time, Kirby said the United States in the next few days will announce a new weapons package for Ukraine as it engages Russia in fierce battles in eastern Ukraine.

It will be the 16th such drawdown of money approved by Congress and allocated under presidential authority, he said.

The package is expected to include US mobile rocket launchers, known as Himars (High-mobility artillery rocket system) and rounds for Multiple Launch Rocket Systems as well as artillery munitions, sources said.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Mike Stone; Editing by Leslie Adler and Alistair Bell.)

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