The EU Commission leader has decided to skip the European Parliament plenary debate on the rule of law on Wednesday. The debate has been scheduled in the wake of the expected European Court of Justice ruling on the EU’s rule of law mechanism against Hungary and Poland set to be published on the same day
In a statement, Mrs von der Leyen’s spokeswoman announced the EU Commission chief will be travelling back to Brussels from Strasbourg tonight to attend her other engagements.
According to Politico, “MEPs are fuming” over the Commission chief’s decision
Aleksejs Dimitrovs, a lawyer for the Greens/EFA group in Parliament, accused the Commission boss of failing to respect the Framework Agreement.
The set of rules governs relations between the Commission and the Parliament, stating the Commission must prioritise plenary sittings when she is invited by Parliament.
To justify Mrs von der Leyen’s absence, a Commission official said: “A decision was made that — given the highly volatile situation in Ukraine — the Commission president should be able to hold a call with world leaders on short notice.”
It comes as new commercial satellite images show a flurry of Russian military activity at several locations near Ukraine, the private US company that released the pictures said, amid fears that Moscow may launch an attack on its ex-Soviet neighbour.
Russia, which has repeatedly denied plans to invade, is holding large military exercises in ex-Soviet Belarus, part of a dramatic buildup of forces to the north, east and south of Ukraine.
US-based Maxar Technologies, which has been tracking the buildup of Russian forces for weeks, said on Tuesday that images taken on Sunday and Monday captured significant new activity in Belarus, annexed Crimea and western Russia.
Maxar pointed to the arrival of several large deployments of troops and attack helicopters as well new deployments of ground attack aircraft and fighter-bomber jets to forward locations.
READ MORE: Russian troops move to ATTACK positions
The images also captured the departure of multiple ground forces units from existing garrisons along with other combat units seen in convoy formation, Maxar said.
This morning, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is highly likely, could be imminent and would pose a threat to Europe’s wider stability that emboldens aggressors around the world.
Russia has more than 100,000 troops massed near the border of Ukraine. Russian political leaders deny Western accusations that it is planning to invade but say it could take unspecified “military-technical” action unless a range of demands are met, including barring Kiev from ever joining the NATO alliance.
Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden on Monday agreed in a call on Monday that there was a crucial window for diplomacy, but Truss said an invasion could be imminent, and Russian troops could reach Kiev “very, very quickly.”
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“This is … about the wider stability of Europe,” she told Sky News. “And it’s about wider global stability, and the message that we give to aggressors and we have to give the message to Vladimir Putin that there can be no reward for aggression.”
Ms Truss echoed politicians in the United States who have warned that a so-called “false flag” operation could be used by Moscow to trigger a conflict.
“It is still the case that an invasion could be imminent, and it is highly likely,” she said.