U.S. President Joe Biden has said he is “convinced” Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the decision to invade Ukraine again but held out hope he could be deterred.
“As of this moment, I am convinced he has made the decision” to invade Ukraine, Mr. Biden said at a news conference at the White House on February 18 following a 45-minute call with European counterparts.
Mr. Biden said the United States “has reason to believe” that Russia plans to attack Ukraine in the coming week, including the city of Kyiv, the capital, with its population of 2.8 million.
“The United States and our allies and partners will support the Ukrainian people. We will hold Russia accountable for its actions. The West is united and resolved. We’re ready to impose severe sanctions on Russia if it further invades,” he said.
Earlier on February 18, the Kremlin-backed separatists who control parts of eastern Ukraine announced the evacuation of residents to Russia.
Mr. Putin ordered his Emergency Situations Ministry to Rostov-on-Don, a city in southwest Russia near the border with Ukraine, to set up accommodation for the evacuees.
Those decisions come amid a spike in sporadic firing in recent days in eastern Ukraine, where the separatists – supported with weapons and funding from Russia – have been battling government forces for almost eight years.
The increased fighting coincides with an unprovoked Russian buildup of combat-ready troops along Ukraine’s border and aggressive rhetoric by Moscow, sparking fears of an imminent war.
The West has repeatedly said that Russia could seek to create a “false-flag” event in eastern Ukraine to justify sending in its troops massed along the border.
Russia has denied it plans to invade Ukraine and has called the West’s claims of an imminent attack “hysteria.”
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