US President Joe Biden has said he is "convinced" that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine and also attack the capital Kiev. According to a US diplomat, Ukraine is threatened by 169,000 to 190,000 soldiers and security forces under Russian control.
Biden said Friday night at the White House, "We have reason to believe that Russian forces are planning and intending to attack Ukraine in the coming week, in the coming days. We believe they will attack the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. A City of 2.8 million innocent people. But I'll say it again: Russia can still choose diplomacy. It's not too late to de-escalate and return to the negotiating table."
Biden repeated to Moscow the threat of severe sanctions that would mean "massive costs" for Russia.
Biden meets Baerbock
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and her British counterpart Liz Truss on Friday for deliberations. Blinken attends the annual Munich Security Conference, where he seeks to cement the unity of Washington's European allies.
The US Department of Defense spoke of further signs that the Russian army is preparing for a possible invasion. An estimated 40 to 50 percent of the ground troops stationed near Ukraine were relocated to attack positions near the border.
Mass evacuation in Donbass
Pro-Russian rebels evacuated civilians from the conflict zone in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine.
First, "women, children and the elderly" should be brought to safety, said the head of the Donetsk separatists, Denis Puschilin. Male civilians over the age of 18 were forbidden from leaving the area. Combat troops are ready to defend the "national territory" against an attack by Ukraine, Puschilin said.
Vladimir Putin instructed the government in Moscow to pay the refugees 10,000 rubles (around 116 euros) in emergency aid. In the Donetsk region alone, 700,000 people are said to be brought to safety.
A car bomb attack was carried out in the city of Donetsk shortly after a speech by Pushilin. Apparently there were no victims.
Kiev denies rumours
Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov warned of possible Russian provocations in eastern Ukraine: "Today two people made statements about evacuation of citizens of Luhansk and Donetsk regions, as if the Ukrainian army launched an attack on Donetsk and Luhansk is planning to retake our territories. I can say that these statements have nothing to do with reality."
Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) recently noticed a massive increase in exchanges of fire in the conflict area. They violate the agreed ceasefire and triggered further international concern