Ukraine’s Zelensky declares ‘day of unity’ for Wednesday, cited as possible invasion day

Ukraine’s Zelensky declares ‘day of unity’ for Wednesday, cited as possible invasion day

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday he had heard that Wednesday could be the day of a Russian invasion, and would proclaim it a day of Ukrainian national unity instead.

Zelenskiy, who has tended to play down suggestions that an attack is imminent, did not say who had suggested the date of February 16. 

However, several US news organisations reported last week that Washington believed that was the date when Russian forces would be ready if Putin gives the order to invade.

“They tell us February 16 will be the day of the attack. We will make it a day of unity,” he said in a video address to the nation. 

“They are trying to frighten us by yet again naming a date for the start of military action.”

An order had been signed to hang out national flags and wear yellow and blue banners on that day, he added.

Russia suggested on Monday that it was ready to keep talking to the West to try to defuse the security crisis, while the United States said Moscow was adding to its military capabilities by the day for a potential attack on Ukraine.

Russia has more than 100,000 troops massed near the border of Ukraine. It denies Western accusations that it is planning an invasion, but says it could take unspecified “military-technical” action unless a range of demands are met, including barring Kyiv from ever joining the NATO alliance.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, attends the drills of the Ministry of Internal Affairs during his working trip to the Kherson region, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022. Picture: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP

In a televised exchange, President Vladimir Putin was shown asking his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, whether there was a chance of an agreement to address Russia’s security concerns, or whether it was just being dragged into tortuous negotiations.

Lavrov replied: “We have already warned more than once that we will not allow endless negotiations on questions that demand a solution today.”

But he added: “It seems to me that our possibilities are far from exhausted… At this stage, I would suggest continuing and building them up.”

Washington has said Russia could invade Ukraine “any day now”. Putin is adding more military force and capability near Ukraine’s border with each passing day, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told MSNBC in an interview on Monday.

“This is a military that continues to grow stronger, continues to grow more ready. They’re exercising, so we believe that he has a lot of capabilities and options available to him should he want to use military force,” Kirby said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Feb. 14, 2022. Picture: Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Western countries have already promised sanctions on an unprecedented scale if Russia does invade. The Group of Seven large economies (G7) warned of “economic and financial sanctions which will have massive and immediate consequences on the Russian economy”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke separately on Monday with the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine, and still believed “from his own analysis, his own hopes” that there would not be a conflict, a UN spokesperson said.

Moscow says Ukraine’s quest to join the Western military alliance poses a threat. While NATO has no immediate plans to admit Ukraine, Western countries say they cannot negotiate over a sovereign country’s right to form alliances.

ECONOMIC DAMAGE 

Ukraine is already suffering economic damage from the standoff. A surge in the price of 5-year credit default swaps on Ukrainian sovereign bonds suggested that markets gave Kyiv a 42% probability of defaulting.

Pedestrians walk along a street in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 14, 2022. Picture: AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan told congressional leaders on Monday that Washington was considering offering Ukraine up to $1 billion in sovereign loan guarantees to calm markets, a source familiar with the adviser’s call told Reuters.

Ukraine International Airlines, Ukraine’s biggest airline, said its insurers had terminated cover for at least some of its aircraft on flights in Ukrainian airspace.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz held talks in Kyiv with Zelensky. On Tuesday, Scholz is due to fly to Moscow, the latest Western official to make the trip after French President Emmanuel Macron and two British ministers went last week.

Scholz said he saw “no reasonable justification” for Russia’s military activity on Ukraine’s border, and that “we are ready for a serious dialogue with Russia on European security issues”. He announced a credit of €150m ($170 million) for Ukraine.

US moving Ukraine embassy from Kyiv to Lviv amid Russian buildup

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken takes part in a joint press availability at the Quad meeting of foreign ministers in Melbourne, Australia, February 11, 2022. Picture: Kevin Lamarque/Pool Photo via AP

The United States is relocating its embassy operations in Ukraine from the capital Kyiv to the western city of Lviv, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday, citing the “dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces.”

The move comes as U.S. officials warn Moscow could launch an attack on Ukraine, including on Kyiv, any day, after amassing more than 100,000 troops cl

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