February 11, 2022 2:02pm
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US officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine and an attack could take place as soon as next week, as National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told Americans still in the Eastern European nation to get out within “24 to 48 hours.”
PBS foreign affairs correspondent Nick Schifrin tweeted that US officials believe Putin has communicated an invasion order to the Russian military and that Washington expects a “horrific, bloody” campaign.
According to the report, a Russian attack would be preceded by two days of aerial bombardment and electronic warfare, followed by a ground assault with the potential goal of overthrowing the Kiev government led by President Volodymyr Zelensky.
At the White House, Sullivan told reporters that the PBS report “does not accurately capture what the US government’s view is today,” but did not issue a full-fledged denial.
“Our view is that we do not believe he [Putin] has made any kind of final decision, or we don’t know that he has made any final decision, and we have not communicated that to anybody,” he said.
Moments earlier, Sullivan laid out a scenario consistent with the PBS report before urging Americans still in Ukraine to leave “as soon as possible, and in any event in the next 24 to 48 hours” and warning that “there is no prospect of a US military evacuation in the event of a Russian invasion.”
“If a Russian attack on Ukraine proceeds, it is likely to begin with aerial bombing and missile attacks that could obviously kill civilians without regard to their nationality,” he said. “Subsequent ground invasion would involve the onslaught of a massive force … No one would be able to count on air or rail or road departures once military action got underway.”
“The risk is now high enough, and the threat is immediate enough, that prudence demands that it is the time to leave now, while commercial options and commercial rail and air service exist, and while the roads are open,” Sullivan went on.
“The president will not be putting the lives of our men and women in uniform at risk by sending them into a war zone to rescue people who could have left now but chose not to,” he warned. “So we’re asking people to make the responsible choice.”
The PBS report emerged following a late-morning call between Biden and other key transatlantic leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron of France, Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Following that meeting, CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour tweeted: “Official from a NATO ally tells me Pres Biden told them today the US does believe Vladimir Putin has decided to attack Ukraine. Next week.”
Shortly before Sullivan took to the White House podium, the British government announced that it was advising UK citizens against traveling to Ukraine and insisting those in the country “leave now by commercial means.”
Meanwhile, the Kyiv Post newspaper reported Friday that the US was evacuating all its staff from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.
The paper reported that a mission member told the outlet he had received orders to leave the country by Tuesday.
This is a developing story.