Joe Biden has said he is “convinced” that Vladimir Putin has already decided to invade Ukraine – and has “reason to believe” it will happen in the coming days.
A US defence official is now estimating that 40% to 50% of Russian troops deployed in the vicinity of the Ukrainian border are now in attack positions.
The number of Russian ground units in the area – known as battalion tactical groups – has also grown to between 120 and 125, compared with 83 two weeks ago.
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The increasing number of Russian forces
Each of these battalion tactical groups has between 750 and 1,000 soldiers.
Although Moscow has released footage to show it is withdrawing troops from the region, Washington believes Russia’s military presence along the border has been ramped up further.
Estimates suggested 100,000 soldiers were in the area at the end of January – but now, this may have risen to 150,000 troops.
Speaking at the White House, the US president said: “We have reason to believe the Russian forces are planning to and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week. In the coming days, we believe that they will target Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million innocent people.”
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told ABC News’ “This Week” that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has a number of options available to him and he could attack in short order.”
“I don’t believe it’s a bluff,” Austin said, adding, “I think he’s assembled… the kinds of things that you would need to conduct a successful invasion.”
Moscow denies it has plans to attack its western neighbor, but is demanding a guarantee that Ukraine will never join NATO and that the Western alliance remove forces from Eastern Europe, demands the West has refused.
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In 2014, Russia invaded and occupied the Crimea region of Ukraine, making use of sympathetic separatists.
AFP with additional input by GVS