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Biden 'convinced' Russia could invade Ukraine amid calls for evacuations as fears grow

Russia Military Drills
Posted at 7:28 AM, Feb 18, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Joe Biden updated the public on Friday regarding diplomatic efforts by the U.S. as a potential invasion of Ukraine by Russia appeared imminent.

"As of this moment, I am convinced he's made the decision, we have reason to believe that," Biden said 

The president reassured the public by saying, "Diplomacy is always a possibility."

The administration has said it is committed to deterrence and diplomacy to try and lower tensions between the two countries as Russia increases troop numbers on the border.

President Biden said, "Over the last few days, we've seen reports of a major uptick in violations of the ceasefire by Russian-backed fighters attempting to provoke Ukraine in the Donbas," 

A separatist leader in eastern Ukraine has announced the evacuation of civilians to Russia amid soaring tensions.

Denish Pushilin, the head of the separatist government in the Donetsk region, said in a statement Friday that women, children and the elderly will be evacuated first and that Russia has prepared the necessary facilities to accommodate them.

The move comes amid a spike in shelling across the line of contact between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed rebels in the region in recent days that fueled Western fears that Moscow could use it as a pretext for an invasion.

According to The Associated Press, a group of international monitors tasked with keeping the peace between Ukraine and pro-Russia separatists reported more than 500 explosions in the 24 hours ending Thursday midday. There were also reports of cell networks crashing in the region due to suspected cyberattacks.

The reports of an evacuation come hours after Russia said it will hold massive drills of its nuclear forces amid soaring East-West tensions. The Russian military announced Friday that President Vladimir Putin would monitor a sweeping exercise of the country's nuclear forces Saturday.

U.S. President Joe Biden sounded unusually dire a day earlier, as he warned that Washington saw no signs of a promised Russian withdrawal. Biden said Russia could look for a pretext to invade. He noted that there was a "very high" chance that Russia could invade within "several days."

Tensions rose further on Thursday when Russia expelled U.S. ambassador Bartle Gorman from the country. The State Department has promised a response.

Russia has massed 150,000-plus troops near Ukraine but has denied that it plans to invade Ukraine.

Putin has also proposed measures he says will improve security in Europe, including a promise not to extend an invitation to join NATO to Ukraine and the removal of the alliance's troops from Eastern Europe. The U.S. has said those proposals are nonstarters.

The U.S. has ordered thousands of troops toward Ukraine in recent weeks as Russia has grown more aggressive in its stance. The Pentagon says those troops were not being sent to fight but to reassure allies.