- Biden on Thursday warned there’s a “very high” risk Russia will invade Ukraine in the next few days.
- The president’s warning came amid reports of shelling in eastern Ukraine.
- Western leaders are warning that Russia is searching for a pretext or excuse to invade.
President Joe Biden said there is a “very high” risk of a Russian invasion of Ukraine in the next few days.
“My sense is this will happen in the next several days,” Biden told reporters outside the White House on Thursday.
The president also said he has “no plans” to speak to Russian leader Vladimir Putin again, but said there is still a “clear diplomatic path” to avoid conflict.
Amid reports of shelling in eastern Ukraine, Biden said of Russia: “We have reason to believe that they are engaged in a false flag operation to have an excuse to go in.”
—JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) February 17, 2022
Moscow claimed on Tuesday that it was reducing its troop presence along the border with Ukraine, but both the US and NATO have firmly rejected this assertion.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield called this week a “crucial moment” in the tensions. “The evidence on the ground is that Russia is moving toward an imminent invasion,” Thomas-Greenfield wrote on Twitter.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to address the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the Ukraine crisis later on Thursday. Thomas-Greenfield said she requested that Blinken address the UNSC about the “serious situation.”
—Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) February 17, 2022
Biden’s warnings about the potential for an imminent Russian invasion came as government forces in Ukraine said that Kremlin-backed rebels in the Donbas fired on Ukrainian territory — hitting a school and injuring several people. Meanwhile, the pro-Russian rebels accused Ukrainian forces of firing on the territory held by the Moscow-backed separatists. Kyiv has denied these claimsas Western leaders warn that Russia could be looking for a pretext to attack.
“We are concerned that Russia is trying to stage a pretext for an armed attack against Ukraine,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday.
—Illia Ponomarenko (@IAPonomarenko) February 17, 2022
Earlier in the week, Russian President Vladimir Putin baselessly suggested that “genocide” was occurring against ethnic Russians in the Donbas.
In 2014, Moscow justified its intervention in Ukraine by claiming it was protecting ethnic Russians in the former Soviet republic. The US at the time dismissed the notion that Russians in Ukraine were in danger as groundless.