On Friday, President Joe Biden said he now believes Russian President Vladimir Putin has reached the decision to invade Ukraine.
During a press briefing, Biden was asked whether Russia has made a decision to invade Ukraine. In the past, Biden and other administration officials had said Russia could attack at any time, but that they had determined Putin still hadn’t made a decision.
On Friday, when he was again asked the question, Biden said, “At this moment, I’m convinced that he has made the decision, we have reason to believe that.”
Moments later, Biden was asked again to confirm he said he believes Putin has decided to invade Ukraine, Biden said, “Yes I did.”
Biden’s comments came on the same day Michael Carpenter, the U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)m said Russia has amassed a force estimated at between 169,000 and 190,000 troops near Ukraine. Carpenter said that number is up from an estimated 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine on Jan. 30.
Carpenter also assessed the deployment of Russian troop landing ships in the Black Sea last week was meant “to augment forces” in the region, raising the risk of a Russian amphibious assault on Ukraine.
“Colleagues, this is the most significant military mobilization in Europe since the Second World War,” Carpenter said of the Russian troop buildup.
During his press conference, Biden further noted the exchange in artillery fire between pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and Ukrainian government forces.
“Over the last few days, we’ve seen reports of a major uptick in violations of the cease-fire by Russian-backed fighters attempting to provoke Ukraine in the Donbas,” Biden said.
Biden said Russia has also spread claims Ukraine is planning a large-scale attack against the pro-Russian elements in the Donbas region.
“Look, there’s simply no evidence of these assertions and it defies basic logic to believe the Ukrainians would choose this moment, with well over 150,000 troops arrayed on its borders, to escalate a year-long conflict,” Biden said.
Biden said the artillery exchanges and Russian claims of a Ukrainian invasion, as well as claims of Ukrainian genocide against pro-Russian areas in the Donbas, are part of a Russian effort to create a “false justification to act against Ukraine.”
Russia has denied claims in recent days that it intends to invade Ukraine. This week, Russia’s military said the multi-month troop buildup near Ukraine was just part of its regular military drills and that units that have completed their portions of the drills have begun to return to their home bases. The U.S. has expressed skepticism at Russia’s claims of its troops distancing from Ukraine’s borders.