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Ukraine’s president has said his country is being threatened by a “big war” amid warnings by the White House that an invasion could begin “at any time”.
Volodymyr Zelensk said he had noted reports that Russia could launch an attack on Wednesday but announced February 16 would be a day of unity, the BBC reports.
“We are being threatened with a big war and the date of the military invasion is set again,” Mr Zelensky said in the statement.
“This is not the first time. But our state today is stronger than ever.
“We want peace and we want to resolve all issues exclusively through negotiations.”
He praised Ukraine’s army and said it is “many times stronger than eight years ago” when Russian-backed separatists began an uprising.
Meanwhile, White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has warned that the continuing Russian troop build-up could see an invasion start within hours.
“We’re seeing new Russian forces have been arriving at the Ukrainian border every day.
“As we have said before, we’re in the window when an invasion could begin at any time,” she said.
The US has announced it is relocating its embassy operations in Ukraine from the capital Kyiv to the western city of Lviv.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the move was necessary due to the build-up of Russian forces.
Kremlin ‘open to diplomatic solution’
Questions remain about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions, however. And countries around Europe are evacuating diplomats and on alert for possible imminent war amid the worst East-West tensions since the Cold War.
US intelligence indicates Russia is clearly advancing its ability to invade at any time, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
“There are lots of different ways that Mr Putin could do this … it could happen any day now,” Mr Kirby said.
“I think we all need to be prepared for the fact that it could happen with little to no warning.”
The Australian Government has widened its travel advice on Ukraine, warning Australians not to travel to the region that borders Russia.
US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold talks in coming hours. Mr Johnson who cut short a scheduled visit to Scotland warned an attack on Ukraine could come within 48 hours.
On a last-ditch diplomatic trip, Germany’s chancellor said there are “no sensible reasons” for the buildup of more than 130,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders to the north, south and east, and he urged more dialogue. Britain’s prime minister said Europe is “on the edge of a precipice” — but added, “there is still time for President Putin to step back.”
Despite warnings from Washington, London and elsewhere that Russian troops could move on Ukraine at a moment’s notice, Monday’s meeting between Mr Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested otherwise.
At the session with Mr Putin, Mr Lavrov argued that Moscow should hold more talks with the US and its allies despite their refusal to consider Russia’s main security demands.
Moscow, which denies it has any plans to invade Ukraine, wants Western guarantees that NATO won’t allow Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to join as members. It also wants the alliance to halt weapons deployments to Ukraine and roll back its forces from Eastern Europe, demands flatly rejected by the West.
– With CNN, AP