Russia Ukraine conflict

Russia’s Putin has made the decision to invade Ukraine, US President Biden says

Biden warned that “it may not be wise” for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to leave his country.

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has decided to proceed with invading Ukraine, US President Joe Biden said in televised remarks on Friday, adding that an attack could begin in the “coming days.”

“As of this moment, I’m convinced he’s made the decision. We have reason to believe that,” Biden said in response to a question from a reporter at the White House.

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“We believe they will target Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million innocent people,” Biden said.

But the US president did not completely rule out diplomacy in a bid to prevent the anticipated war between Russia and Ukraine. “Until he [Putin] does [invade], diplomacy is always a possibility.”

Biden cited Russian troops surrounding Ukraine’s borders and other US intelligence as evidence of an imminent attack. “The fact remains Russian troops currently have Ukraine surrounded from Belarus along the Russian border and with Ukraine to the Black Sea in the south, and all of its border.”

And Biden doubled down on previous threats of devastating economic sanctions against Russia if it attacks Ukraine, saying that NATO and Washington’s allies were more unified than ever.

“Russia has a choice — between war and all the suffering that it will bring — or diplomacy that will make the future safer for everyone,” he tweeted after his speech.

Biden also said that Secretary of State Antony Blinken would meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov next Thursday in Europe.

VP Harris to speak in Munich

Earlier in the day, a senior administration official briefed reporters on Vice President Kamala Harris’ scheduled speech at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

“We have been putting the world on notice of what we’re afraid of and seeing from the Russians, these provocations, that we fear that they could use as a pretext for invading Ukraine and the past hours or days, unfortunately, we have seen some of those,” the official said.

US VP Kamala Harris (2nd R) listens as Estonia's PM Kaja Kallas speaks during a meeting at the Munich Security Conference (MSC), February 18, 2022. (AFP)
US VP Kamala Harris (2nd R) listens as Estonia's PM Kaja Kallas speaks during a meeting at the Munich Security Conference (MSC), February 18, 2022. (AFP)

After her speech, Harris plans to meet with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. It is unclear whether or not Zelensky will travel to Munich as scheduled if the situation escalates. Biden said it was ultimately up to the Ukrainian leader to decide whether or not to leave, but he warned that “it may not be wise” for Zelensky to leave his country.

“We believe we will emerge stronger and Russia will emerge weaker,” the senior US administration official said.

The US has been warning for months now that an attack could begin at any time. This led Biden to deploy thousands of US troops to Eastern Europe to bolster the defense of allies and Ukraine.

The US also set up a task force for Ukraine, shut down its embassy in Kyiv, and stepped up its warning that Russia was spreading disinformation as a pretext to attack Ukraine.

Moscow says that it has withdrawn some troops and forces from the border with Ukraine, but the US says intelligence does not reflect these claims.

Washington’s ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Michael Carpenter said Friday that Russia had massed between “169,000-190,000 personnel in and near Ukraine as compared with about 100,000 on January 30.”

Read more: Russia expels no. 2 US diplomat from embassy in Moscow: State Department

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