The Biden administration announced on Friday they’ve seen new signs that Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing to invade Ukraine at any time.
During a White House press briefing on Friday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the U.S. does not yet believe Putin has reached a decision yet to invade, but that they see signs that it could happen at any time, including during the Olympics, which conclude Feb. 20.
“There is a credible prospect that a Russian military action would take place even before the end of the Olympics,” Sullivan said.
Russia has been amassing troops and military assets near Ukraine for months and now has approximately 100,000 troops surrounding Ukraine. Biden administration officials estimated that those troops comprised 70 percent of the forces Russia would need to conduct a full-scale invasion.
The Russian military has also started a joint exercise this week with Belarus, which neighbors Ukraine to the north. This week, Russia also sent six landing ships and a submarine to the Black Sea, which borders Ukraine to the south.
During his remarks, Sullivan reiterated U.S. claims that Russia may stage an attack on its own troops or pro-Russian elements in Ukraine and blame it on Ukraine in order to justify an invasion.
“We are firmly convinced that the Russians … are looking hard at the creation of a pretext, a false flag operation, something that they generate and try to blame on the Ukrainians as a trigger for military action,” Sullivan said.
Throughout his remarks, Sullivan said the U.S. and its allies have no additional intelligence showing Putin has reached a decision to invade, but that “it may well happen soon.” The Biden administration has been warning that a Russian invasion of Ukraine was “imminent” for more than a month.
Biden repeated on Thursday his call for Americans to leave Ukraine immediately, which he and his administration have urged in recent weeks. He also reiterated that he would not be sending U.S. troops into Ukraine to help Americans evacuate because to do so would signal “world war.”
U.S. officials who spoke with the Wall Street Journal Wednesday said an estimated 30,000 Americans are in Ukraine.
On Friday, Sullivan said Americans should try to leave Ukraine within the next 24 to 48 hours.
Japan and South Korea also ordered their citizens to evacuate Ukraine on Friday, citing the worsening security situation.
Satellite imagery circulating social media this week shows increasing military movement in Crimea, including the construction of field hospitals.
Some analysts have predicted that field hospitals would be a sign of an invasion.
In late January, U.S. officials told Reuters that Russia had moved blood along with other medical supplies that indicated it was preparing to treat combat casualties.