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Biden says he’s ‘convinced’ Russia will invade Ukraine, target Kyiv

The president warned that an invasion is imminent in the "coming days."

WASHINGTON (CN) — Pivoting from his diplomacy-centered message from earlier this week, the president said he is convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the decision to invade Ukraine.

"We have reason to believe that Russian forces are planning and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week, coming days. We believe that they will target Ukraine's capital Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million innocent people," Biden said.

While Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed earlier this week that the Kremlin was withdrawing some of its troops stationed near Ukraine, U.S. envoy to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Michael Carpenter said Friday that the organization believes 169,000 to 190,000 Russian forces stand on the border.

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

Carpenter called Russia's enforcements surrounding Ukraine "the most significant military mobilization in Europe since the Second World War."

"We're calling out Russia's plans loudly and repeatedly not because we want conflict, but because we're doing everything in our power to remove any reasons that Russia may give to justify invading Ukraine and prevent them from moving. Make no mistake, if Russia pursues its plans, it will responsible for a catastrophic and needless war of choice," Biden said.

Biden warned that Russian accusations of Ukrainian military movement in the Donbas region, which have been reported by Russian state media, are unfounded and an attempt by the Kremlin to create a false pretext to justify an invasion.

"There is simply no evidence to these assertions and it defies basic logic to believe the Ukrainians would choose this moment, with well over 150,000 troops are raid on his borders to escalate a year-long conflict," Biden said.

On the contrary, Biden said U.S. officials have seen reports of Russian aggression in the region.

"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," Biden said.

Putin has repeatedly called for the U.S. and its NATO allies to keep Ukraine and other former Soviet nations from joining the alliance, a demand Biden and leaders of other member nations have repeatedly rejected.

"The United States and our allies are prepared to defend every inch of NATO territory from any threat to our collective security as well. We also will not send troops in to fight in Ukraine, but we will continue to support the Ukrainian people," Biden said.

Biden's remarks came after a meeting with NATO member nations and a call with congressional lawmakers attending the Munich Security Conference.

"Despite Russia's efforts to divide us at home and abroad, I can affirm that has not happened. The overwhelming message on both calls was one of unity, determination and resolve," Biden said.

Daleep Singh, a deputy national security adviser, said the U.S. is finalizing a sanctions package that would target Russian banks, companies and the country's exports if Russia does invade Ukraine.

"Both financial sanctions and export controls deny something to Russia that it needs and can't get from anywhere other than the United States or our allies and partners," Singh said.

Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger told reporters Friday that the federal government believes Russia was behind cyberattacks earlier this week that targeted the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and several state-owned banks.

The president emphasized that the opportunity for a diplomatic solution to the conflict remains.

"Russia can still choose diplomacy. It is not too late to deescalate and return to the negotiating table," Biden said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are scheduled to meet in Europe on Feb. 24 for diplomatic talks, according to Biden.

"But if Russia takes military action before that day, we'll be clear that they have slammed the door shut on diplomacy. They will have chosen war and they will pay a steep price for doing so," Biden said.

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