(NEW YORK) — The United States continues to warn Russia could invade Ukraine “any day” amid escalating tensions in the region.
More than 150,000 Russian troops are estimated to be massed near Ukraine’s borders, President Joe Biden said Tuesday, as U.S. officials have urged all Americans to immediately leave Ukraine.
Biden said Tuesday the U.S. has “not yet verified” claims by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin that Russia was withdrawing some troops from near Ukraine’s borders.
ABC News has learned Putin had told his military forces to be ready to invade by Wednesday, Feb. 16, but it is still unclear whether he has made a decision to attack his neighbor.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meanwhile, has called for a national day of unity Wednesday.
Russia has denied it plans to invade and has demanded the U.S. and NATO bar Ukraine from joining the military alliance.
-Biden addresses American public on importance of Ukraine
-Biden warns Putin of ‘self-inflicted wound’ if Russia invades Ukraine
-Biden says Russian troops remain in a ‘threatening position’
-US reiterates need to confirm any Russian de-escalation
-Biden won’t announce new policy in remarks: White House
Here’s how the news developed Tuesday. All times Eastern:
Feb 15, 8:09 pm
Russian troops moved to firing positions near Ukraine, sources say
As Russia’s defense ministry said Tuesday that some forces would pull back from Ukraine’s borders after completing military exercises, sources told ABC News that there are troops moving forward closer to the line, including with medical supplies, and being put into firing positions.
The U.S. believes that Russia now has all the necessary pieces in place, including 150,000 troops in the region, to launch a swift and brutal invasion of Ukraine, the sources added — the reason why Biden administration officials have now publicly been saying Russia could move “at any time.”
ABC News has learned that Russian leader Vladimir Putin had told his military forces to be ready to go by Wednesday, but it is still unclear whether he has made a decision to attack his neighbor.
ABC News’ Conor Finnegan
Feb 15, 6:16 pm
Blinken convenes French, German, UK counterparts
In another attempt to signal Western unity, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a call with his British, French and German counterparts after speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Tuesday morning, the U.S. Department of State confirmed.
The four foreign ministers discussed their coordinated “implementation of the massive consequences and severe costs to be imposed if Russia invades Ukraine,” Blinken spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
In addition, Blinken’s deputy, Wendy Sherman, spoke with her British, French, German and Italian counterparts Tuesday, the State Department said.
ABC News’ Conor Finnegan
Feb 15, 5:40 pm
Senate leadership issues bipartisan statement in support of Ukraine
Following President Joe Biden’s remarks Tuesday, Senate leaders released a bipartisan statement of support for Ukraine that included a stark warning for Russia.
In the event of an invasion in Ukraine, “Russia must be made to pay a severe price,” said the statement, which was released by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, along with the leaders of several Senate committees.
Lawmakers would support “immediate imposition of strong, robust, and effective sanctions on Russia, as well as tough restrictions and controls on exports to Russia” in the event of an invasion, the statement said.
The senators noted that U.S. troops “stand ready” to enforce the security of Eastern allies and will “respond decisively to Russian efforts to undermine the security of the United States at home and abroad.”
ABC News’ Allison Pecorin
Feb 15, 4:41 pm
Biden addresses American public on importance of Ukraine
President Joe Biden warned the American people that any conflict over Ukraine with Russia would not be “painless” at home either, particularly when it comes to energy prices, although he said his administration is taking active steps to try to prevent any disruption.
“To be clear, if Russia decides to invade, that would also have consequences here at home. But the American people understand that defending democracy and liberty is never without cost,” Biden said. “I will not pretend this will be painless. There could be impact on our energy prices, so we’re taking active steps to alleviate the pressure on our own energy markets and offset raising prices,” he added.
The president went on to explain why he felt the situation justifies U.S. involvement, saying that “this is about more than just Russia and Ukraine.”
“It’s about standing for what we believe in, for the future that we want for our world, for liberty, for liberty, the right of countless countries to choose their own destiny. And the right of people to determine their own futures, or the principle that a country can’t change its neighbor’s borders by force,” Biden said. “If we do not stand for freedom where it is at risk today, we’ll surely pay a steeper price tomorrow.”
Biden also reiterated his administration’s call for all Americans to depart Ukraine “now — before it’s too late to leave safely,” and speaking directly to the Russian people, said they were “not the enemy.”
“I do not believe you want a bloody destructive war and Ukraine, a country and people with whom you share deep ties of family, history and culture,” he said.
ABC News’ Molly Nagle and Sarah Kolinovsky
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