WASHINGTON – President Biden said on Friday the United States had intelligence that Russian President Putin had made the final decision about invading Ukraine.
“We have reason to believe that Russian forces are planning, planning to attack Ukraine in the next week, in the coming days,” Biden said in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. “We believe they will target the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million innocent people.”
Asked if he thought Mr. Putin was still wavering, Mr. Biden said, “I believe he’s made a decision.” He then added that his impression of Mr. Putin’s intentions was based on US intelligence.
Earlier, the president and his top national security aides said they did not know whether Mr. Putin would make the final decision to follow through on his threat to invade Ukraine.
However, Mr. Biden still begged Russia to “choose diplomacy”.
“It’s not too late to de-escalate and get back to the negotiating table,” Biden said, referring to talks scheduled between Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Foreign Minister of Russia next week. “If Russia takes military action before that date, it’s clear that they’ve closed the door to diplomacy.”
Biden also stressed that the United States and its allies were united behind imposing severe economic sanctions if Russian forces crossed the Ukrainian border.
The president was speaking after holding another round of virtual talks with European leaders on Friday afternoon.
Tensions in the region escalated as Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine called for mass evacuations from the area on Friday, accusing Ukrainian government troops of preparing to attack. Western officials denounced this as Russia’s latest attempt to create a pretext for aggression.
Biden’s comments follow a new assessment by US officials based in Europe that Russia has up to 190,000 troops concentrated on the Ukrainian border and inside two pro-Moscow breakaway regions, Donetsk and Luhansk.
Putin on Friday stressed that he was prepared for further diplomacy. However, Russian officials say the country’s military will conduct drills over the weekend that will include ballistic and cruise missile launches.
The prospect of testing its nuclear forces further enhances the sense of anticipation in the region.
“We are ready to continue negotiations on condition that all questions are considered together, not separately from the main Russian proposals,” Putin said at a news conference.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/18/world/europe/biden-holds-urgent-talks-with-nato-leaders-amid-growing-signs-that-war-is-imminent-in-ukraine.html Biden says the US believes Putin has decided to invade Ukraine.