Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned during a press conference in Latvia on Wednesday, and the U.S. has evidence of the plan.
At the end of a North Atlantic Treaty Alliance meeting this week, Blinken said both US and Ukrainian officials are concerned about a possible invasion from Russia.
“We’re deeply concerned by evidence that Russia made plans for significant aggressive moves against Ukraine,” Blinken said. “The plans include efforts to destabilize Ukraine from within, as well as large scale military operations.”
“Now we’ve seen this playbook before. In 2014, when Russia last invaded Ukraine. Then, as now, they significantly increased combat forces near the border,” he continued. “Then, as now, they intensified disinformation to paint Ukraine as the aggressor to justify preplanned military action. We’ve seen that tactic again in just the past 24 hours. In recent weeks, we’ve also observed a massive spike, more than ten fold, in social media activity pushing anti-Ukrainian propaganda approaching levels last seen in the lead up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014.”
“We don’t know whether President Putin has made the decision to invade [Ukraine],” Blinken added.
Also on Wednesday, Russia ordered all US Embassy diplomats and staff who have been in the country for more than three years to leave by January 31, just one day before diplomats were scheduled to discuss the two nations’ struggling relationship.
“I would like to emphasize that the choice is not ours,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. “Our American partners have forced us to play that way. We have long and persistently tried to reason with them and still direct them to some kind of constructive solution to the issue, but they made their choice.”
Last month, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said his nation’s intelligence uncovered a Russia-backed plan to stage a coup in Ukraine. Zelenskiy did not accuse the Kremlin of direct involvement, and the Kremlin quickly denied a role in any coup plot.
Zelenskiy said he had obtained “certain audio recordings” related to the allegedly planned coup attempt.
“There is a threat today that there will be war tomorrow,” Zelensky said in November. “We are entirely prepared for an escalation.”
Blinken said the United States and Ukraine “must prepare for all contingencies” despite many uncertainties about “intentions and timing.”
“Should Russia follow the path of confrontation when it comes to Ukraine, we made clear that we will respond resolutely, including with a range of high-impact economic measures,” Blinken said.