US urges citizens to leave Ukraine as Russia could invade ‘at any time’
Madrid Desk, Feb 11 (EFE).- The United States has warned that Russia could begin an invasion of Ukraine “at any time,” including before the ongoing Winter Olympic Games conclude next Sunday.
The US and its Nato allies have become increasingly alarmed by a buildup of Russian military troops near its borders with Ukraine, although Moscow has repeatedly denied it is planning an invasion.
During a meeting with the foreign ministers from India, Japan and Australia in Melbourne on Friday to discuss the rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine and Moscow’s ties with Beijing, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said: “we continue to see very troubling signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border.”
“We’re in a window when an invasion could begin at any time and, that includes during the Olympics,” he added.
His remarks follow an advisory issued by the State Department urging US citizens in Ukraine to “depart now” due to “the increased threats of Russian military action.”
“If remaining in Ukraine, exercise increased caution due to crime, civil unrest, and potential combat operations should Russia take military action,” the advisory warned.
In an interview with NBC broadcast on Thursday, US president Joe Biden echoed that message, telling American citizens to “leave now” because “things could go crazy quickly.”
Jens Stoltenberg traveled to the Mihail Kogălniceanu Military Base in Romania on Friday, where the alliance has strengthened its defenses with fighter jets from Germany and Italy and an additional deployment of 1,000 US troops, in what the Nato secretary-general called “a powerful demonstration of transatlantic unity.”
“There is a real risk of a new armed conflict in Europe,” he warned.
Russia and Belarus, which also shares a long border with Ukraine, stepped up their joint military exercises Friday with tests to repel an air attack with live fire.
The White House says that Moscow has already deployed 5,000 troops to Belarus, a contingent that could increase to 30,000, further raising fears of a potential invasion of Ukraine from the southern Belarussian border.
Ukraine’s defense minister, meanwhile, has thanked the US for its continued support, posting images on Twitter of the delivery of more military hardware to Ukraine.
“Birds are flying! Another 90 tons of USA ammunition arrived today. The total weight of US military aid at the moment exceeded 1300 tons!,” Oleksii Reznikov said.
On Thursday, following a meeting with the British foreign secretary Liz Truss, Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov again dismissed the West’s concerns that Moscow is planning to invade Ukraine, saying there was “a lot of hysteria in the West.”