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White House warns Russian invasion of Ukraine may be imminent

Press secretary Jen Psaki warned that an “extremely dangerous situation” is building along the Ukrainian border where Russia is amassing troops.
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WASHINGTON — The White House believes Russia could launch an invasion of Ukraine at any moment, press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday, warning that an “extremely dangerous situation” is building along the Ukrainian border.

"We believe we're now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack on Ukraine. I would say that's more stark than we have been,” Psaki said during her daily press briefing.

The assessment comes as Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to Ukraine this week to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Blinken spoke with Russia’s foreign minister on Tuesday morning and the two plan to meet in Geneva, where he will urge Russia to “take immediate steps to de-escalate,” Psaki said.

The U.S. and Russia held talks this month that failed to resolve the standoff between the two countries after Russia amassed more than 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border. The U.S. has warned Russia of dire economic consequences should it invade Ukraine, including crippling economic sanctions.

“What Secretary Blinken is going to do is highlight very clearly that there's a diplomatic path forward,” Psaki said. “It is the choice of President Putin and the Russians to make whether they are going to suffer severe economic consequences or not.”

Image: Russian armored vehicles in Crimea
A convoy of Russian armored vehicles moves along a highway Tuesday in Crimea. Russia has concentrated an estimated 100,000 troops with tanks and other heavy weapons near Ukraine in what the West fears could be a prelude to an invasion.AP

On Friday, the administration revealed that it had information that the Russian government is planning a "false-flag" operation to rationalize an invasion of Ukraine. A government official said Russia had already positioned a group of operatives to conduct a false-flag operation in eastern Ukraine.

“No option is off the table, in our view,” Psaki said Tuesday. “We continue to consult closely with European counterparts on severe consequences for Russia if it further invades Ukraine.”

Ukraine was hit with a massive cyberattack last week that downed more than 70 government websites. National security adviser Jake Sullivan told CBS News on Sunday that the U.S. was still working to determine who was behind the attack, but that "this is part of the Russian playbook."

"If it turns out that Russia is pummeling Ukraine with cyberattacks, and if that continues over the period ahead, we will work with our allies on the appropriate response," he said.

He said that while the U.S. is still open to a diplomatic resolution, "we're ready either way."

"If Russia wants to go down the path of invasion and escalation, we're ready for that, too, with a robust response that will cut off their strategic position," he said.