White House warns Russian invasion of Ukraine could happen at any time
On Friday, Mr. Biden spoke with other transatlantic leaders on a call that included Mr. Scholz; Prime Ministers Boris Johnson of Great Britain, Mario Draghi of Italy and Justin Trudeau of Canada; and Presidents Macron, Andrzej Duda of Poland, Klaus Iohannis of Romania, Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission and Charles Michel of the European Council; and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
The leaders met for about 80 minutes, in a call initially meant to focus on “diplomacy and deterrence”, the White House said.
Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also spoke Friday with his Russian counterpart as well as with allied defense chiefs about the crisis in Ukraine, military officials said.
The calls came as Russia builds up its forces in Belarus, western Russia and Crimea. Ukraine said on Friday that Russian-backed separatists were holding military exercises in the part of eastern Ukraine they controlled, at the same time Russia was holding drills near Ukraine.
The drills tested the separatists’ readiness for live-fire operations, practicing “driving artillery, tanks and armored vehicles” in field drills, the Ukrainian declaration noted. Some units of the force, estimated at 30,000 strong, were placed on the highest alert level, the Ukrainians said, and senior Russian military officers were observing the activity.
Kyiv’s assessment was the latest evidence of a shift by officials there toward more alarming comments about the military risk facing the country. This follows weeks of efforts to minimize the threat of an invasion, seeking to calm the public, limit the economic fallout and avoid anything that could be seen as a provocation by Moscow.
Understanding the escalation of tensions over Ukraine
“If there is a war tomorrow, Putin calculated that Zelensky would be blamed for not preparing for war,” McFaul said, referring to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “It doesn’t get much attention from our press, but it’s a very big part of his strategy. Ideally, he would like to see democracy fall in Ukraine, and Zelensky personally fall.