Top U.S. Senate Republican says Biden 'moving in the right direction' on Ukraine

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U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to a reporter outside his office at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, Jan 25 (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, a frequent critic of President Joe Biden, said on Tuesday that he is seeing "encouraging" signs from the administration about its approach to deterring further Russian aggression towards Ukraine.

McConnell said Biden now appears to be adopting the right approach to Ukraine following a weekend meeting with his security team at Camp David. McConnell last week said Biden had "telegraphed passivity and weakness" on the issue.

"What I've been hearing since then is encouraging, that they're prepared to take steps before an incursion, not afterwards," McConnell said at a news conference in Frankfort, Kentucky.

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"It appears to me the administration is moving in the right direction," he added.

Russia has massed an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine's border, raising alarm in the West that Moscow is preparing for a new military assault after its invasion of Crimea in 2014.

NATO said Monday it was putting troops on standby and reinforcing eastern Europe with more ships and fighter planes. The United States has also said that about 8,500 U.S. troops have been put on heightened alert and could deploy to the region. read more

McConnell urged the immediate deployment of NATO troops to Poland, Romania and the Baltic states, as well as the shipment of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to Ukraine.

The Kentucky Republican is among party members who advocate a tough line against Russian President Vladimir Putin, at a time when conservative commentators like Fox News host Tucker Carlson have questioned the need for the United States to take sides.

"My office is now getting calls from folks who say they watch Tucker Carlson and are upset that we're not siding with Russia in its threats to invade Ukraine, and who want me to support Russia's 'reasonable' positions," Democratic U.S. Representative Tom Malinowski tweeted on Monday.

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Reporting by David Morgan; editing by Andy Sullivan, Alexandra Hudson

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