President Biden ‘convinced’ that Putin has decided to invade Ukraine

President Biden ‘convinced’ that Putin has decided to invade Ukraine

Joe Biden said he is “convinced” that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to launch a further invasion in Ukraine, saying he has “reason to believe” it will occur in the “coming days” and will include an assault on the capital Kyiv.

After weeks of saying the US was not sure if Mr Putin had made the final decision to launch a widespread invasion, the US president said that assessment had changed.

“As of this moment I’m convinced he’s made the decision,” Mr Biden said. “We have reason to believe that.” He cited the United States’ “significant intelligence capability” for the assessment.

Mr Biden reiterated his threat of massive economic and diplomatic sanctions against Russia if it does invade, and pressed Mr Putin to rethink his course of action.

He said the US and its Western allies were more united than ever to ensure Russia pays a price for the invasion.

President Joe Biden speaks about Ukraine (Alex Brandon/AP)

While Mr Putin held out the possibility of diplomacy, a cascade of developments this week have further exacerbated East-West tensions and fuelled war worries.

This week’s actions have fed those concerns: US and European officials focused on an estimated 150,000 Russian troops posted around Ukraine’s borders, warn the long-simmering separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine could provide the spark for a broader attack.

As a further indication that the Russians continue preparations for a potential invasion, a US defence official said an estimated 40% to 50% of the ground forces deployed in the vicinity of the Ukrainian border have moved into attack positions nearer the border.

That shift has been underway for about a week, other officials have said and does not necessarily mean Mr Putin has decided to begin an invasion.

The official also said the number of Russian ground units known as battalion tactical groups deployed in the border area had grown to between 120 and 125, up from 83 two weeks ago. Each battalion tactical group has between 750 and 1,000 soldiers.

Vice President Kamala Harris said the US still hopes Russia will de-escalate but is ready to hit it with tough sanctions in case of an attack.

US leaders this week issued their most dire warnings yet that Moscow could order an invasion of Ukraine any day.

“We remain, of course, open to and desirous of diplomacy… but we are also committed, if Russia takes aggressive action, to ensure there will be severe consequence,” Ms Harris said at the annual Munich Security Conference.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy inspects weapons during a visit to Ukrainian coast guards in Mariupol, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. Picture: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP

While Russia snubbed this year’s conference, lines of communication remain open: The US and Russian defence chiefs spoke on Friday, and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin called for de-escalation, the return of Russian forces surrounding Ukraine to their home bases, and a diplomatic resolution, according to the Pentagon.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov agreed to meet next week.

Immediate worries focused on eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces have been fighting pro-Russia rebels since 2014 in a conflict that has killed some 14,000 people.

A bombing struck a car outside the main government building in the major eastern city of Donetsk, according to an Associated Press journalist there.

The head of the separatists’ forces, Denis Sinenkov, said the car was his, the Interfax news agency reported.

There were no reports of casualties and no independent confirmation of the circumstances of the blast. Uniformed men inspected the burned-out car. 

A Ukrainian serviceman carries an NLAW anti-tank weapon during an exercise in the Joint Forces Operation, in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. Picture: AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

Broken glass littered the area, Shelling and shooting are common along the line that separates Ukrainian forces and the rebels, but targeted violence is unusual in

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