(NEW YORK) — The United States continues to warn that Russia could invade Ukraine “any day” amid escalating tensions in the region, with President Joe Biden telling reporters Friday he’s “convinced” Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade.
More diplomacy seemed possible, though, with Biden agreeing “in principle” Sunday to meet with Putin, as long as Russia didn’t invade, but the Kremlin on Monday said talk of a summit was “premature.”
On Monday, Putin said he would decide by the end of the day whether to recognize Russian-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, which the U.S. said he could use as a pretext for an invasion.
While the U.S. says some 190,000 Russian troops and separatist forces are estimated to be massed near Ukraine’s borders, Russia has denied any plans to invade and reiterated its demands that the U.S. and NATO bar Ukraine from joining the military alliance.
Here’s how the news developed Monday. All times Eastern:
Feb 21, 9:32 pm
US to announce new sanctions against Russia on Tuesday
The Biden administration plans to impose additional sanctions against Russia on Tuesday, a White House official told ABC News.
“We plan to announce new sanctions on Russia tomorrow in response to Moscow’s decision and actions today,” the official said.
The U.S. is consulting with allies and partners now on the way forward, the White House official and a spokesperson for the State Department told ABC News.
Among those consultations was a conversation Secretary of State Antony Blinken had with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba Monday night — ahead of their in-person meeting Tuesday in Washington — in which they spoke about the necessity for tough sanctions on Russia.
The spokesperson described Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions on Monday as “a major escalation” and “another indication that Russia is seeking war, not diplomacy.”
Earlier on Monday, President Joe Biden tweeted a photo of himself signing an executive order to authorize limited sanctions in response to Russia’s decision to recognize the independence of two regions in eastern Ukraine.
Feb 21, 9:17 pm
US diplomats in Ukraine moved to Poland for their safety
U.S. embassy staff that remained in Ukraine in Lviv have been moved to Poland for the night for security reasons, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Monday.
The diplomats “will spend the night in Poland,” Blinken said, but their departure may be open-ended. They “will regularly return to continue their diplomatic work in Ukraine and provide emergency consular services,” Blinken added, without offering more details.
As the U.S. has done for weeks, Blinken urged U.S. citizens to depart the country immediately amid the threat of a Russian invasion “at any moment.” Commercial flights could soon be “severely” restricted, Blinken warned, because of “any Russian military operations.”
The State Department has stationed support teams near the Ukrainian border in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova, along with the U.S. citizen welcome center it opened in Poland last week, Blinken said.
Feb 21, 9:06 pm
Top Democrats echo GOP calls for tougher sanctions on Russia
Democrats are now joining Republicans in the call for stricter sanctions against Russia in the wake of President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize two separatist regions in Ukraine as independent.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., is calling for “crushing sanctions” if “any additional Russian troops or proxy forces cross into Donbas.”
“There must be tangible, far-reaching and substantial costs for Russia in response to this unjustified act,” Menendez said.
Sen. Chris Coons, a close ally of President Joe Biden and a senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for “significant” action to be taken against Russia.
“The time for taking action to impose significant costs on President Putin and the Kremlin starts now,” Coons said late Monday, adding that the U.S. must “swiftly” join NATO allies and European Union partners “to impose forceful new sanctions on Russia.”
Feb 21, 9:26 pm
Zelenskyy says Ukraine is ready to defend itself
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday that he considers the decision of Russian President Vladimir Putin to recognize two separatist regions as independent to be a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.
“According to Article 51 of the UN Charter, Ukraine reserves the right to individual and collective self-defense,” the president said. “We can well distinguish between provocations and attacks by the aggressor’s troops.”
Zelenskyy said Russia’s decision constitutes a de facto exit from the Minsk agreements, which attempted to end the fighting in the East but was vaguely written. Its interpretation is disputed by both sides.
The president noted that he initiated an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council and the Normandy 4 — Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia.
He added that Ukraine was committed to diplomacy but noted that they are ready to defend the country.
There’s no need to panic, Zelenskyy said, adding that he is “committed to a peaceful and diplomatic path,” but also noting that it’s not 2014, it’s 2022. “This is another country, another army,” he said.
We are not afraid of anything or anyone,” Zelenskyy said. “We owe nothing to anyone. And we will not give anything to anyone.”
Feb 21, 7:20 pm
UN Security Council to meet in open session on Ukraine
The United Nations Security Council will meet Monday at 9 p.m. ET on the unfolding crisis in Ukraine.
Ukraine, which requested the meeting, will be allowed to participate even though it is not a member of the council.
The U.S., U.K., Albania, Ireland, France, Norway, Mexico and France — all current or permanent members of the council — backed the meeting, a U.S. official told ABC News.
Russia, as council president, is responsible for scheduling meetings. With so many countries in favor, it likely could not have blocked this one.
In its letter requesting the meeting, Ukraine accused Russia of “ongoing aggravation of the security situation,” violating “Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – the fundamental principles enshrined in the Article 2 of the UN Charter” and endangering “international peace and security,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by ABC News.
Feb 21, 6:58 pm
Republicans criticize Biden administration’s handling of Ukraine crisis
Top House Republicans are criticizing the Biden administration for its handling of the evolving crisis in Ukraine.
The ranking members on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Armed Services Committee released a joint statement Monday, saying it was a “dangerous mistake” by the administration to say it will impose sanctions on Russia if and only if they invade Ukraine — and not before.
They also said the sanctions previewed by the White House thus far “are the definition of impotence,” calling for forceful sanctions to be imposed starting now.
No. 3 House Republican Elise Stefanik (R-NY) tweeted Monday that Biden is “unfit” to be commander-in-chief.
“Joe Biden is unable to stand up to Putin,” she tweeted. “He is unfit to be our Commander-in-chief.”
A growing group of GOP senators are also calling for the Biden administration to severely sanction Russia for Putin’s decision to recognize Russian-backed separatist territories.
Sen. Lindsey Graham is also intensifying calls for sanctions with a series of tweets calling into question the “will” of the administration to act.
“It’s clear that after the debacle in Afghanistan, every thuggish figure on the planet is licking their chops, including the Iranians and the Chinese,” Graham tweeted. “I stand ready, willing and able to work with the Biden Administration to impose the most crushing sanctions possible on the Russian economy. The question is whether the Biden Administration has the will and determination to do so.”
House Republican Rep. Liz Cheney said that Russia’s actions on Monday, including the recognizing and ordering of troops into Ukraine separatist regions, qualifies as an invasion, saying the Biden administration must impose “crippling” sanctions now.
“Russia has invaded Ukraine,” Cheney tweeted. “The Biden Administration and our allies must impose full set of crippling sanctions now.”
Feb 21, 7:01 pm
Putin questions Ukraine’s legitimacy as a country
In his speech Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin questioned Ukraine’s historical legitimacy as a country and made clear he will not tolerate it pulling away from Russia.
Putin said he considers the current government in Kyiv to be illegitimate, describing it as “those that seized and cling to power” and engaging in a long, detailed exposition arguing that modern Ukraine was a Soviet creation.
Putin lambasted the leaders of Ukraine’s 2014 revolution and accused the country’s government of being entirely under the control of the West, saying the revolution had led to “terror” and economic failure.
At one point, Putin challenged Ukraine’s efforts to break away from its Soviet past, implying that if wanted to do that it should accept being dismembered.
“You want decommunization? Well, decommunization suits us very well,” Putin said. “Let us show you what real decommunization means for Ukraine.”
The implication was that a pro-Western “nationalist” elite has hijacked Ukraine and is trying to pull it away from Russia and should therefore be removed.
Putin then painted modern Ukraine as ungrateful, immature and accused it of taking advantage of Russia, which he represented as having tried to be the benevolent senior partner.
“Russia did everything to preserve Ukraine’s territorial,” Putin said.
Feb 21, 7:25 pm
Russia preparing for invasion ‘in coming hours or days,’ US official says
Russia is continuing to prepare for an invasion into Ukraine “in coming hours or days,” a senior U.S. administration official told reporters on a call Monday.
The big question now is whether Putin’s move to put security forces on the ground in the separatist region constitutes an invasion in the eyes of the west, therefore triggering the severe sanctions Western countries have been threatening.
The administration is still “observing and assessing” exactly what Russia is doing, the official said, adding that there will likely be more sanctions on Tuesday.
When pressed by reporters on whether Putin started an invasion or triggered sanctions with his move on Monday, the official responded that Russian troops have been in the region for years.
The senior administration official heavily criticized the speech Putin made Monday as making “clear his true design,” which was to persuade Russian citizens to “justify war.”
“This wasn’t a speech just about Russia’s security,” the official said. “It was an attack on the very idea of a sovereign and independent Ukraine. He made clear that he views Ukraine historically as part of Russia and made a number of false claims about Ukraine’s intention that seems designed to excuse possible military action. This was a speech to the Russian people to justify a war. In fact, he once again explicitly threatened one.”
Feb 21, 6:58 pm
UK to announce new sanctions against Russia
The U.K. will announce new sanctions against Russia on Tuesday “in response to their breach of international law and attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Monday.
Earlier in the day, Truss said the recognition of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic as independent states “demonstrates Russia’s decision to choose a path of confrontation over dialogue.”
“We will not allow Russia’s violation of its international commitments to go unpunished,” Truss said.
The decision to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine was an “ill omen” and a flagrant breach of international law, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
Johnson spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday evening. Johnson outlined “his grave concern at recent developments in the region” and told Zelenskyy “that he believed an invasion was a real possibility in the coming hours and days,” according to a Downing Street spokesperson.
“The leaders agreed that the West needed to support Ukraine in the event of an invasion but should continue to pursue a diplomatic solution until the last possible second,” the spokesperson said.
Feb 21, 5:47 pm
Treaty will allow Russia to build military infrastructure on Ukraine territory
Russia has published the mutual defense treaty it has concluded with the separatist regions.
The “friendship, cooperation and mutual aid” treaty states that the two will come to each other’s defense in the case of attack and authorizes Russia to build military infrastructure on the separatist territory — inside an internationally recognized part of Ukraine.
The treaty also says that Russia and the separatist forces will guards its borders jointly, meaning Russian forces will openly deploy along the frontline.
It lays the ground for a substantial open Russian military deployment into the separatist territory, where a lot of covert Russian troops were already located.
Feb 21, 5:21 pm
The U.S. administration has urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to head to Lviv, in the western part of the country, for his safety, a U.S. official told ABC News.
Feb 21, 5:49 pm
Biden, Macron and Scholz ‘strongly condemned’ Putin’s decision, White House says
President Joe Biden spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday afternoon, in which all three leaders “strongly condemned” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize separatist regions in Ukraine as independent, the White House announced in a statement.
“The leaders strongly condemned President Putin’s decision to recognize the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine as ‘independent,'” the statement read. “They discussed how they will continue to coordinate their response on next steps.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also condemned Putin’s decision, stating, “This further undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, erodes efforts towards a resolution of the conflict, and violates the Minsk Agreements, to which Russia is a party.”
Feb 21, 4:41 pm
Putin orders Russian military to assist in “maintaining peace” in separatist regions
In the decree signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin recognizing independence for two Russian-controlled separatist regions in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, Putin ordered Russia’s Defense Ministry to assist the separatist forces in “maintaining peace.”
This degree gives Russia’s military a basis to openly enter the regions.
The decree specifies that Russia’s forces should maintain the “peace” before the formal signing of a treaty of “friendship, cooperation and mutual aid” between Russian and the “republics.”
The decree also orders Russia’s foreign ministry to begin establishing diplomatic relations with the two separatist “republics.”
“In connection with the appeal of the head of the Donetsk’s People’s Republic, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation is to ensure before the conclusion of the agreement, named in point three of the present Decree, the fulfilment by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of the People’s Republic of Donetsk the function of maintaining the peace,” the decree reads.
Feb 21, 6:02 pm
Leaders call for UN Security Council meeting
French President Emmanuel Macron is calling for an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting and “targeted European sanctions” in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin announcing recognition of independence of two Russian-controlled separatist regions in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.
“This is clearly a unilateral violation of Russia’s international commitments and an attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty,” the Elysée Palace said.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is “greatly concerned” by Putin’s decision, which he considers to be a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, a spokesperson said.
“The United Nations, in line with the relevant General Assembly resolutions, remains fully supportive of the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognized borders,” the spokesperson said. “The Secretary-General urges all relevant actors to focus their efforts on ensuring an immediate cessation of hostilities, protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, preventing any actions and statements that may further escalate the dangerous situation in and around Ukraine and prioritizing diplomacy to address all issues peacefully.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba had called for a U.N. Security Council meeting earlier in the day. The U.S. is now backing the call, with Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield saying in a statement that the U.N.’s highest body “must demand that Russia respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, a UN Member State.”
“We must all stand with Ukraine in the face of this brazen attempt to usurp Ukraine’s sovereign territory,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “There can be no fence-sitters in this crisis.”
Feb 21, 3:54 pm
Biden responds with sanctions
President Joe Biden will issue an executive order banning “new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine,” the White House said, in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin recognizing the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, two Russian-controlled separatist regions in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.
“This E.O. will also provide authority to impose sanctions on any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in the statement. “We will also soon announce additional measures related to today’s blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments.”
Psaki added, “These measures are separate from and would be in addition to the swift and severe economic measures we have been preparing in coordination with Allies and partners should Russia further invade Ukraine.”
Biden spoke to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for 35 minutes while Putin was giving his address, a White House official confirmed. Biden then spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, according to a White House official.
Feb 21, 3:33 pm
Putin says he’ll recognize separatist regions as independent
Russian President Vladimir Putin in an address to the Russian people announced recognition of the two Russian-controlled separatist regions in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
“I believe that it’s necessary to take a decision that has long been coming — to immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Donesk’s People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic,” Putin said.
Putin also made a menacing warning to Ukraine’s government, telling it to “immediately cease all military action” near the separatist regions or else they will face “full responsibility” for further consequences and bloodshed.
Putin’s address laid an aggrieved vision of Russia’s post-Soviet relations with the West and questioned the historical underpinnings of Ukraine’s statehood. Putin said Ukraine was infected with the “virus of nationalism” and blamed Ukrainian politicians and the West for allegedly cynically drumming up divisions.
Putin denounced Ukraine’s 2014 revolution, saying it had not led to the developed “Western” direction it promised, instead claiming it had led to “terror” and to economic failure.
Putin also said he believed that the West would impose sanctions on Russia regardless of what happens.
“A pretext for the next sanctions attack will always be found. Or fabricated. There is one goal to contain the development of Russia,” he said.
The European Commission in a statement said it will react to Putin’s decision to recognize the separatist regions with sanctions “against those involved in this illegal act.”
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU Commission, condemned Putin’s decision on Twitter, calling it “a blatant violation of international law, the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the #Minsk agreements.”
United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson also condemned Putin’s announcement, saying, “This is plainly in breach of international law — it’s a flagrant violation of the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine. … It is a repudiation of the Minsk process and the Minsk Agreements.”
“I think it’s a very ill omen and a very dark sign,” Johnson said, adding, it’s “yet another indication that things are moving in the wrong direction in Ukraine.”
Feb 21, 1:47 pm
Putin told France, Germany he intends to sign decree recognizing separatist regions: Kremlin
Shortly before he was set to speak to the Russian people, Russian President Vladimir Putin informed French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz via phone that he intends to sign a decree recognizing the two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin said in a statement to Russian media.
The Kremlin said Putin informed them about the “outcomes” of his security council meeting and noted that the separatist “republic” had sent appeals asking for recognition due to unverified reports of “military aggression by the Ukrainian government, with massive shelling of the territory of Donbas, as a result of which the civilian population is suffering.”
This comes amid a barrage of false reports from Russia and the separatists of supposed Ukrainian attacks. In the last few days, Russia has also made dubious claims of shells falling on Russian territory as Russia builds a pretext for a possible attack on Ukraine, under the guise of coming to the aid of the separatists.
Scholz condemned the plans to recognize the separatist regions, a spokesperson said, calling it a “stark contradiction to the Minsk Agreements for the peaceful settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine” and “a unilateral breach of these agreements on the part of Russia.”
“During the talks, the [German] Chancellor called on the President of the Russian Federation to immediately de-escalate and withdraw the amassed forces from the border with Ukraine,” the spokesperson said.
Feb 21, 12:40 pm
Putin to address Russian people
The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin will make a national TV address shortly. This comes after Putin said he would decide today whether to recognize Russia-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said, in response to Putin’s possibly recognizing the separatist regions, he has convened his national security council and has held “urgent consultations” with the presidents of France and Germany.
France and Germany are the guarantors of the Minsk agreement and the Normandy Format, which all sides agree Russia will exit if it recognizes the separatist regions.
Feb 21, 10:51 am
Putin says he’ll decide today whether to recognize Russian-controlled separatist regions
Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a national security council meeting that he will make a decision today whether to recognize the Russian-controlled separatist regions in Ukraine as independent.
This came after Putin called an unplanned meeting of his national security council and, in an unusual move, broadcast the meeting live on state TV. The security council unanimously advised Putin he should recognize the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk and Lugansk. That would open a path to Russia annexing them, as it did Crimea in 2014.
Feb 21, 10:42 am
Biden meeting with national security team
President Joe Biden is meeting Monday with his national security team, the White House confirmed.
Seen arriving at the White House shortly after 10 a.m. were: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, Vice President Kamala Harris, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and CIA director William Burns.
Feb 21, 9:37 am
Russia claims to destroy 2 Ukrainian armored vehicles amid fears of pretext to attack
Russia has claimed to have destroyed two Ukrainian armored vehicles and killed five Ukrainians it claimed crossed into Russian territory, in unverified reports as Russia appears to be intensifying efforts to build a pretext to attack Ukraine.
Russia’s military and its FSB intelligence service claimed a Ukrainian “sabotage and reconnaissance group” was detected Monday morning near a village close to the border in the Rostov region that neighbors the two Russian-controlled separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine has denied the Russian claim and it comes amid a barrage of false reports and staged videos from Russia and the separatists of supposed Ukrainian attacks. In the past three days, Russia has also made dubious claims of shells falling on Russian territory as Russia builds a pretext for a possible attack on Ukraine, under the guise of coming to the aid of the separatists.
Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytryo Kuleba publicly denied the Russian claims, on Twitter calling Russia a “fake-producing factory.”
-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell
Feb 21, 9:19 am
Leader of Russian-backed separatists calls on Putin to recognize separatist regions as independent: Russian media
The head of the Russian-controlled separatists in eastern Ukraine is calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to recognize the separatist regions as independent of Ukraine, Russian media is reporting.
Denis Pushilin, the leader of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk, is also asking Putin to consider making a treaty on mutual military defense.
Recognition would open a path to Russia potentially annexing the regions and possibly openly sending troops there.
The Russian parliament last week voted to appeal to Putin to recognize the two separatist self-proclaimed republics, though Putin initially signaled he wouldn’t do so immediately.
The two self-proclaimed separatist People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk were formed after Russia stoked conflict in the Russian-speaking region of Donbas in 2014, sending troops in covertly to help establish the regions.
In the last week Russia and the separatist regions have dramatically escalated tensions, accusing Ukraine of an imminent attack and building a pretext for Russian intervention.
-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell
Feb 21, 8:33 am
Likelihood of diplomatic solution ‘diminishing hour by hour’
National security adviser Jake Sullivan told ABC News’ “Good Morning America” Monday that President Joe Biden is prepared in principle to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin if there is no invasion, but that unfortunately, an invasion still seems likely.
“President Biden made clear all along he’s prepared either way. He’s prepared to engage in high level diplomacy to resolve this peacefully and he’s equally prepared to rally our allies and partners to impose costs and consequences on Russia should they choose to invade,” Sullivan said.
“He indicated to the French president yesterday in principle he would be prepared to meet with Putin if President Putin stood down from his invasion,” Sullivan said. “We can’t say anything other than indications on the ground look like Russia is still moving forward.”
Sullivan indicated the window for diplomacy will remain open until more significant military action is seen, but that the window gets smaller as time goes on.
“We never give up hope on diplomacy until the missiles fly or the tanks roll,” Sullivan said. “We’ve been working hard for months with our allies and partners to get Russia to sit down in a serious way at the table, even as recently as yesterday the president indicated his readiness to do that. Russia has not shown the same kind of willingness on their side. The likelihood there’s a diplomatic solution given the troop movements of the Russians is diminishing hour by hour.”
Asked if sanctions will be enough to stop Russia without sending U.S. forces to Ukraine, Sullivan said the U.S. is determined to impose sanctions in the long-term to strangle Russia’s ambitions without the use of ground forces.
-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky
Feb 21, 5:27 am
Talk of Biden-Putin summit ‘premature,’ Kremlin says
The Kremlin has said it is still “premature” to talk about a summit between President Joe Biden and President Vladimir Putin, though it didn’t rule out that one could take place.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Sunday said Biden and Putin have agreed “in principle” to meet, provided Russia did not invade Ukraine.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced the possibility of a meeting after speaking with both leaders on Sunday, amid intense diplomatic efforts to try to dissuade Putin from launching an invasion the U.S. fears could come this week.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that for now there’s only an agreement for Russia and the U.S. to speak at a lower level, between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. That meeting is scheduled for this week.
Peskov seemed to suggest that an agreement on a meeting between Biden and Putin would depend on the outcome of those talks.
“I can say that an understanding has been reached that we need to continue the dialogue at the level of ministers,” Peskov told reporters on Monday. “But to talk about some kind of concrete plans about organizing any summits is for now premature.”
Contacts between Biden and Putin can be arranged quickly, if necessary, he said.
-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell
Feb 20, 10:28 pm
US alleges Russia making list of Ukrainians ‘to be killed or sent to camps’
The United States has obtained information of potential Russian operations against Ukrainian targets as part of a potential invasion, including targeted killings, kidnappings, detentions and torture, the U.S. alleged in a letter to the United Nations obtained by ABC News.
“We have credible information that indicates Russian forces are creating lists of identified Ukrainians to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation,” U.S. Ambassador Bathsheba Nell Crocker wrote to Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights.
That includes the “likely use” of lethal measures to “disperse peaceful protesters or otherwise counter peaceful exercises of perceived resistance from civilian populations,” Crocker wrote.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken alluded to this during his remarks to the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, telling his fellow diplomats, “Conventional attacks are not all that Russia plans to inflict upon the people of Ukraine. We have information that indicates Russia will target specific groups of Ukrainians.”
In addition, sources told ABC News last Tuesday that the U.S. believed Russia aimed to move into Kyiv to decapitate the Ukrainian government and install their own.
But this new letter goes further, saying Russia “would likely target those who opposes Russian actions, including Russian and Belarusian dissidents in exile in Ukraine, journalists and anti-corruption activists, and vulnerable populations such as religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTQI+ persons.”
Ambassador Michele Sison, the top U.S. diplomat for international organizations, is headed to Geneva this week to meet Bachelet at the U.N. headquarters there, the State Department announced Sunday.
“The United States is gravely concerned that a further Russian invasion of Ukraine would produce widespread human suffering. In light of OHCHR’s important mandate and its reporting presence in Ukraine, we wish to share this information with you as an early warning that a further Russian invasion of Ukraine may create a human rights catastrophe,” Crocker added in the letter.
-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan
Feb 20, 8:46 pm
Biden, Putin agree to summit
U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to hold a summit proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron. The leaders both accepted the summit “in principle,” with one major condition: that Russia does not invade Ukraine.
“As the president has repeatedly made clear, we are committed to pursuing diplomacy until the moment an invasion begins,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Sunday evening.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov are set to meet Thursday. During their meeting, they will prepare “the substance” of the summit, according to a statement from the French government. Macron “will work with all stakeholders to prepare the content of these discussions” as well.
Macron spoke with Putin twice Sunday, both before and after he called Biden for a brief 15-minute phone call.
“We are always ready for diplomacy,” Psaki said. “We are also ready to impose swift and severe consequences should Russia instead choose war. And currently, Russia appears to be continuing preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very soon.”
-ABC News’ Justin Gomez
Feb 20, 7:49 pm
US State Department gives more info on Moscow safety alert
A State Department spokesperson said the alert published Sunday warning Americans to avoid crowds and stay alert in places frequented by tourists and Westerners was issued “out of an abundance of caution,” stopping short of tying it directly to the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
“In recent days a number of Russian media outlets have reported on a spate of bomb threats being made against Russian public buildings, including metro stations, in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and elsewhere,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“The U.S. Department of State has no greater responsibility than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas,” they said. “Out of an abundance of caution, and in line with our commitment to providing U.S. citizens with clear and timely information so they can make informed travel decisions, we published this alert.”
-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan
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