Russia’s military is “poised to strike” Ukraine, said US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin during a news conference on Saturday morning. Russian troops are beginning to “uncoil and move closer” to the Ukrainian border, Austin told reporters while speaking during a trip to Lithuania.
He added that troops were “moving into the right kinds of positions to be able to conduct an attack.
Up to 50% of Russian troops deployed near the Ukrainian border are now in attack positions, a US defence official said. It is believed that an estimated a total of 150,000 troops are now in the area, the British media outlet reported.
President Joe Biden said on Friday that he is convinced a Russian invasion into Ukraine will take place in the coming days. He added that Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, would be targeted.
But Austin said at Saturday’s news conference that an invasion is not inevitable. Sky News defence editor Deborah Haynes. Russian President Vladimir Putin could still choose a “different path,” he noted. “We hope he steps back from the brink of conflict,” Austin told reporters, per Reuters.
Western leaders will gather on Saturday at the Munich Security Conference in Germany to discuss how to protect Ukraine from a Russian invasion.
On Saturday morning, multiple explosions were heard in the rebel-held Ukrainian city of Donetsk. It is not clear what caused the explosions. Ukraine said one of its soldiers was killed.
Biden has accused Russian-backed separatists in the region of an “uptick” in violence as part of a plan to create a “pretext” for an invasion of Ukraine.
The Kremlin still denies it intends to invade.