US President Joe Biden on Friday (local time) said that there has been an uptick in Russian disinformation that could be used as a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine. “We are calling out Russia’s plans loudly and repeatedly … we’re doing everything in our power to remove any reason Russia may give to justify invading Ukraine and prevent them from moving. Make no mistake: if Russia pursues its plans, it will be responsible for a catastrophic and needless war of choice,” Biden said at the White House while discussing developments on the crisis between Russia and Ukraine. President Biden said the US believes that Russian troops intend to attack Ukraine “in the coming week, the coming days.”
“We have reason to believe the Russian forces are planning and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week, the coming days,” the President said Friday speaking from the White House. “We believe that they will target Ukraine’s capital Kyiv — a city of 2.8 million innocent people.” Biden went on to condemn such an attack, in the process pledging to continue supporting Ukraine.
“The United States and our allies are prepared to defend every inch of NATO territory from any threat to our collective security as well. We also will not send troops in to fight in Ukraine, but we will continue to support the Ukrainian people,” the President added. Biden said reports pushed to the Russian public that Ukraine is planning to launch an attack in separatist-controlled Donbas lacked evidence. He said those claims defied logic.
“All of these are consistent with the playbook the Russians have used before,” Biden said. “This is also in line with the pretext scenario that the United States and our allies and partners have been warning about for weeks,” Biden went on.
He said the US had seen an uptick in violations of the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.
Biden meanwhile also said that it is up to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky whether he will attend this weekend’s Munich Security Conference 2022 held in Germany. “That’s a judgment for him to make,” Biden said when asked by reporters following remarks he gave on the current state of tensions between Ukraine and Russia.
Biden added, “I’ve spoken with Zelensky a dozen times, maybe more, I don’t know. In the pursuit of a diplomatic solution, it may — maybe be a wise choice. But it’s his decision.” It was previously reported that Biden administration officials have privately urged Zelensky that they do not believe it is a good idea for him to leave Ukraine and visit Munich on Saturday.
Nearly half of Russian forces surrounding Ukraine are in attack position, according to a US defence official familiar with the latest assessment. The number of battalion tactical groups has swelled to approximately 120-125. A battalion tactical group usually comprises 1,000 troops. The official said the Russian military has continued to move forces toward the border, and within the last 48 hours, the number of forces in attack position has reached 40-50 per cent.
At the same time, the Russian destabilization campaign has begun, the official said, with Russia accusing Ukraine of genocide in Donbas, conducting false flag operations, and more. On Friday, a military vehicle exploded in the city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine near the Government House building, the headquarters of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic.
An advisor to Ukraine’s Interior Minister, Anton Gerashchenko, called it a “staging and a provocation.” Earlier, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, two self-governed regions in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists, organized the evacuation of civilians to Russia.