“We have reason to believe that Russian forces are planning and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week—coming days,” he said at the White House, without providing details. “We believe that they will target Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.”
Biden also said officials believe that “as of this moment I’m convinced [Putin]’s made the decision” to invade Ukraine. The United States, he added, will not send troops to Ukraine to fight.
The reports that Russia has allegedly pushed in Ukraine that the Ukrainian military is planning to launch an attack is false, Biden said.
Such a scenario, he went on, is “in line with the pretext scenario that the United States and our allies and partners have been warning about for weeks.”
Moscow did not immediately issue a response, but the Kremlin has continuously denied it will invade its neighbor. More than 100,000 Russian troops have been stationed near areas along Russia’s border with Ukraine for about a month, and U.S. officials said that number has swelled to more than 190,000 in recent days.
“We see additional forces going to the border including leading-edge forces,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Munich Security Conference. “This is the most significant military mobilization in Europe since the Second World War,” U.S. ambassador Michael Carpenter also said at another meeting in Europe.
U.S. officials over the past weekend and this week have warned that Russia would imminently invade, while anonymously sourced reports claimed the attack would start on Feb. 16, which has come and gone.
In a Twitter post, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs refuted White House officials’ claims.
“All the movements of Russian troops take place on our national territory. At the same time, we see the increased Western military activities near our borders,” it wrote Friday.
Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, on also Friday claimed that atrocities are being committed against Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine and that mass graves with 300 people were found in the Donbas. Western powers, he claimed, are ignoring an alleged genocide.
“Americans prefer not only to ignore the attempts of forced assimilation of Russians in Ukraine but also strongly condone them with political and military support,” Antonov said, according to Russian media reports.
Biden’s remarks come as several large explosions were reported on Friday in the Donbas cities of Lugansk and Donetsk, located in eastern Ukraine, and are controlled by separatist rebel groups, according to Russian state-run media. Blinken and Western officials have claimed Russia is attempting to create the pretext to justify an invasion of Ukraine, including a possible false flag attack.
Russian officials said that one explosion involved the Lugansk pipeline, blaming the incident on the Ukrainian military, reported state-backed media Sputnik News.
“We categorically refute Russian disinformation reports on Ukraine’s alleged offensive operations or acts of sabotage in chemical production facilities,” wrote Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Twitter Friday. “Ukraine does not conduct or plan any such actions in the Donbas. We are fully committed to diplomatic conflict resolution only.”
Earlier on Friday, the heads of the two separatist regions announced they would evacuate their respective areas and send civilians to nearby Russia.
Denis Pushkin, head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, said on social media that Russia had agreed to provide accommodation for those who leave, according to media reports. Women, children and the elderly should be evacuated first. The other self-proclaimed region, Luhansk, made a similar announcement.
But some in Donetsk told Reuters that they believe the crisis is overblown.
“I think everything will blow over in a few days,” said one man in his 20s waiting in line to withdraw cash from an ATM, reported Reuters.
Ukrainian officials have repeatedly said they do not believe Russia will launch a full-scale invasion. On Friday, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that “we estimate the probability of a large-scale escalation as low” despite U.S. warnings.
The Epoch Times has contacted the Russian Embassy in Washington for comment.
Reuters contributed to this report.