A Russian attack on Ukraine is “still very much a possibility” and the human cost would be “immense”, US President Joe Biden has said.
In remarks televised nationally on Tuesday night, February 15, Biden said the US was ready to respond decisively to a Russian attack on Ukraine and told Russians America doesn’t see them as enemies.
The US president said Russia had now massed some 150,000 troops on the border with Ukraine even though Russia’s defence minister said on Tuesday some forces have withdrawn.
Biden said that will be a good move although Russia’s claims of troops withdrawal hasn’t been verified.
“[Russian forces leaving] would be good, but we have not yet verified that. We have not yet verified the Russian military units are returning to their home bases,” the US president said.
“Indeed, our analysts indicate that they remain very much in a threatening position.”
On Tuesday, Ukraine announced that the websites of its Defence Ministry and two banks came under a cyber-attack. The cause of the attacks is not clear but Ukraine has suffered large-scale attacks before on its online infrastructure and has blamed Russia.
President Biden said on Tuesday the US was prepared to respond to any move by Russia to destabilize Ukraine be it through invasion or cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure.
“To the citizens of Russia: you are not our enemy, and I don’t believe you want a bloody, destructive war against Ukraine.”
Following earlier reports that US intelligence believed Russia could attack Ukraine on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared it to be a day of unity, calling on citizens to wave the country’s flag and wear blue and yellow ribbons – Ukraine’s national colours.
The US president also warned the American economy could suffer from disruption to energy supply and sharp price increases in the likely event that sanctions were levied on Russia in response to any invasion of Ukraine.
“The American people understand that defending democracy and liberty is never without cost,” the US president said. “I will not pretend this will be painless.”
Biden also warned the proposed Russian Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline to Europe “will not happen” if a Ukraine invasion goes ahead.