(The Hill) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday that Wednesday would be a day of unity, as he addressed reports that a Russian invasion of his country could begin on the day.
The Ukrainian leader’s comments, made in an address to his nation posted on Facebook, come amid heightened tensions between Kyiv and Moscow. The Biden administration had warned on Friday that an attack on Ukraine could be imminent.
Zelensky wrote in the Facebook statement that the executive order declaring a day of unity had already been signed.
“We are told that February 16 will be the day of the attack,” he said, according to a Facebook translation of his remarks.
Ukrainian officials told reporters in Kyiv that Zelensky was not literal about an attack on Wednesday – although that day has been circulated in the media as a possible opening day for a Russian campaign against Ukraine.
Zelensky and the Ukrainian government have sometimes criticized the United States for exaggerating the danger of an imminent Russian invasion of the country.
The Associated Press, citing intelligence obtained by the United States, reported that Russia was considering a target date for an attack on Wednesday.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters on Monday “we still don’t believe a final decision has been made.” Asked about Zelensky’s statement and the February 16 mention, Kirby said: “I’m not going to talk about specific intelligence assessments, I think you can relate to that. We’ve been saying for a while now that military action could happen. whenever.
He later said “I won’t go into a specific date, I don’t think that would be smart. I would just like to tell you that it is entirely possible that it could move with little or no warning.
Russia has amassed over 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border. The troop build-up had raised fears among US and NATO allies that Russia was considering a military incursion, but Moscow has consistently denied having such plans.
Officials from Ukraine, Russia and NATO countries engaged in diplomatic talks for weeks in hopes of easing tensions in the region, but the talks yielded no breakthrough.
President Biden spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday and said “swift and significant costs” would follow if Moscow invaded Ukraine.
Shortly after Zelensky released his statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the United States was “temporarily moving our embassy operations ‘from Kyiv to Lviv’ due to the dramatic acceleration reinforcement of Russian forces”.
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