In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday evening, Tbatat, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Anthony Blinken, said while he could not give details, “Everything we have seen in the past 24 to 48 hours has made Russia finalize the presence of its forces on all of Ukraine’s borders from North, East, and South to be ready for complete conquest.”
“Russia is at the height of readiness now to complete an all-out invasion of Ukraine,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a media conference in Australia, which took place Tuesday evening ET. That “is likely to happen within the next 24 hours,” said Morrison, whose country is a member of the Five Eyes alliance that shares intelligence.
On Wednesday morning, the prime minister of Latvia, a NATO member, told CNN that Russian forces had moved into the breakaway region of Ukraine that Russia has now recognized as “independent.” The Pentagon also said later on Wednesday that it believed Russian forces were moving in the area.
“We certainly believe that additional Russian military forces are moving in that area,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told a camera briefing at the Pentagon. “We can’t confirm with any great accuracy the numbers, what the formations are, what the capabilities are, but we certainly think it does.”
President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a speech posted on Facebook in the early hours of Thursday morning Ukrainian time, said that he tried to contact Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday but was unsuccessful.
“Today I started a telephone conversation with the President of the Russian Federation. Silence. Although there must be silence in the Donbass,” Zelensky said.
The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting on Wednesday night at Ukraine’s request. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the meeting with a letter to the Russian President.
“If an operation has already been prepared,” he said, “I have only one thing to say from the bottom of my heart: President Putin, stop your forces from attacking Ukraine.” “Give peace a chance. Many people have already died.”
Linda Thomas Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said US President Joe Biden asked her to convey that “the United States and our allies and partners will continue to respond to Russia’s actions with unity, clarity and conviction.”
“We are here tonight because we believe, along with Ukraine, that a further large-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia is imminent,” Thomas Greenfield said. “This is a perilous moment. We are here for one reason and one reason only: to ask Russia to stop. Go back to your borders… Get off the brink, before it’s too late.”
Amid the warnings, the Verkhovna Rada on Wednesday approved the government’s declaration of a state of emergency, which will be imposed across the country from midnight on Wednesday.
“According to the information I have, Putin is moving additional troops and tanks to the occupied territories of Donbass,” Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krishanis Kariche told CNN correspondent Jim Sioto. “By what definition this is the crossing of a sovereign territory into a neighboring country.”
Pressed specifically on whether he was referring to additional Russian forces entering since Moscow recognized the breakaway regions earlier this week, Karish replied: “Yes, according to the information I have, that’s exactly what we’re seeing.”
The presidents of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, the two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, asked Putin on Wednesday to help push back Ukraine’s armed forces, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RIA-Novosti news agency.
Two other sources familiar with US intelligence confirmed to CNN that additional Russian troops have in fact crossed the border into the Donbass region since Putin recognized the two regions and ordered the deployment of “peacekeepers” in Donbass on Tuesday. According to a senior US official familiar with the latest intelligence, Russia has deployed two so-called tactical battalions, which are Russia’s main combat formation, each with an average of about 800 soldiers.
CNN has not independently verified the presence of additional Russian forces in Donbass.
New intelligence alerts
The new warning from US intelligence was conveyed to Ukraine on Tuesday morning, Kiev local time, according to three sources. A senior Ukrainian official said Ukraine had not verified the intelligence and noted that the United States had issued similar warnings before about attacks that ultimately did not materialize.
The United States assessed that Russia had completed all preparations for an invasion, a senior US defense official familiar with the latest intelligence said. “They are as prepared as possible,” the official said.
NATO allies have received a similar intelligence assessment warning of an imminent attack, according to a NATO military official. The official warned that “no one knows for sure” what Putin will do.
The United States has warned that the main northeastern city of Kharkiv is of particular concern, according to a senior Ukrainian official and a Western official familiar with the intelligence. On Tuesday, Ukraine’s foreign minister said there were no plans to evacuate the city.
“We have no such plans,” he told a news conference in Washington alongside Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
The White House claimed on Wednesday that the United States believed Putin was “improvising” and “adapting” in response to the United States’ disclosure of information about his war plans. Speaking during a daily briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Putin does not expect the level of transparency from the United States about what it sees on the ground and how it expects Putin to move forward.
“Our assessment is that President Putin did not expect the United States to have the level of information that we have, he did not expect us to put together that much information that we provided, and we did not expect the international community to be united. Including how the international community was united in setting up sanctions yesterday. “.
Psaki said the United States did not expect “a day, a moment or an hour” of a Russian attack, but said the United States still believed that “Russian military forces are in an offensive position” and “capable of action.”
Vice President Kamala Harris threatened further sanctions against Russia over the country’s aggressive actions ahead of a meeting with leaders from the Black National Rally of State Legislators on Wednesday, calling the situation on the ground a “re-incursion.”
“If Russia goes further, we will impose more costs that will be fast and severe,” Harris said.
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has warned that the Russian invasion of Ukraine would not only be a “war of choices” but also a “war of massacre” that could kill thousands. In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Sherman said that “thousands of lives could be lost” if Putin launched an all-out attack on Ukraine.
Blinken retracted the idea that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be a failure of US diplomacy during an interview with CBS Evening News.
“Diplomacy has been very effective in bringing the world together in the United States and Europe in the face of Russian aggression,” Blinken said.
The Pentagon says that the Russian forces are in ready positions
A senior defense official told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday that 80% of Russian forces massed on the Ukrainian border are “in what we consider to be forward and ready-to-go positions.” A senior defense official told reporters during an off-camera briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday.
The official said that Russian military forces “scattered around Ukraine and Belarus are as prepared as possible” for the invasion.
The official added that Russian military capabilities along the Ukrainian border are “close to 100% of all forces” that the Pentagon had expected Putin to move into the region. The official said Putin has a “full range of capabilities” that have already moved to the Ukrainian border, including “a significant offensive missile capability”, “more than two dozen warships in the Black Sea” and “armor, artillery and certainly infantry.”
A hacking tool was found to erase data on hundreds of computers in Ukraine on Wednesday, according to cyber security researchers, raising fears of a devastating cyber attack as the Russian military moves into separatist regions of Ukraine.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the hacking incident, which followed a different cyber attack earlier Wednesday on Ukrainian government websites. The Ukrainian government did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
CNN’s geo-located and analyzed social media videos over the past several days show the continued accumulation of armor and support vehicles less than 30 kilometers across the border in Russia.
US officials said they expected a ground invasion and air strikes if Russia launched an attack.
“Russian missiles and bombs will fall across Ukraine. Communications will be disrupted. And cyber-attacks will shut down key Ukrainian institutions,” Blinken told the UN Security Council last week, describing how the United States believes a Russian attack on Ukraine will occur. “After that, Russian tanks and soldiers will advance on key targets that have already been identified and drawn up in detailed plans.”
The United States and Europe say more sanctions are ready if Putin further escalates
Biden on Tuesday described events now taking place in Ukraine as “the beginning of a Russian invasion,” although senior administration officials would not initially confirm whether additional Russian forces had entered Donbass, where unmarked Russian forces have been supporting separatist fighters since 2014.
Karic told CNN that the first round of sanctions from the US and Europe was just the beginning of a Western response to Moscow if Putin further escalated his escalation in Ukraine.
“I think what we are seeing now is the first wave of sanctions. So Putin is moving military units into Ukraine, and the democratic world is responding immediately, within a day, across all time zones, with very deep coordinated sanctions,” he said. “If there are more moves, there will be more penalties, and they will only be cut deeper and deeper.”
On Wednesday, a member of Ukraine’s parliamentary press team confirmed to CNN that the Verkhovna Rada said it was “dealing with a cyber attack” on its website.
Internet monitor NetBlocks tweeted that the websites of Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, Security Service and Cabinet offices were “affected by the network outage”.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
Barbara Starr, Elie Kaufman, Kevin Liptak, Vasco Cutovio, Tim Lister, Jennifer Hansler, Satyam Kaswala, Sean Lingas and Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.
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