Saturday, February 19, 2022
US President Joe Biden has said he is convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to launch an invasion of Ukraine, and that an assault could happen in the “coming days”.
Mr Biden said the assessment was based on US intelligence, which suggested the capital Kyiv would be targeted.
However, Russia denies it is planning to invade.
Western countries fear Russia is trying to stage a fake crisis in breakaway eastern regions of Ukraine to give it a reason to launch an offensive.
The US estimates there are 169,000-190,000 Russian personnel massed “in and near Ukraine”, a figure that includes Russian-backed fighters in the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.
In a televised address from the White House, President Biden said the US had “reason to believe” that Russian forces were “planning to and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week, in the coming days”.
But, he said, Russia could “still choose diplomacy” and that it was “not too late to de-escalate and return to the negotiating table”.
Earlier on Friday, in another sign of rising tensions, leaders of the two separatist areas announced an evacuation of residents, saying Ukraine had intensified shelling and was planning an attack.
Ukraine has repeatedly said it is not planning any attack, and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba dismissed what he described as “Russian disinformation reports”.
Hundreds of thousands of people live in the region, and such evacuation would be a huge undertaking. There is no indication that a mass evacuation is imminent, but Russian state media did report that several buses carrying local residents had made their way to Russia.
Russia has been backing an armed rebellion in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region since 2014. About 14,000 people – including many civilians – have died in fighting.