WASHINGTON: Hours after imposing tough economic sanctions on Russia, US officials warned on Wednesday that a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine was imminent.
Meanwhile in Europe, Ukraine declared a state of emergency on Wednesday and told its citizens in Russia to return home, while Moscow began evacuating the Kiev embassy in the last sinister signs for Ukrainians fearing an all-out Russian military attack.
By western estimates, the Kremlin has defied a series of international sanctions to hibernate 150,000 troops to occupy and defend two rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine. In response, Kiev President Volodymyr Zelensky reported that Ukraine will receive a call for more than 200,000 reservists to return to their troops.
US President Joe Biden denounced the Russian actions as the start of an “invasion” and confirmed that Russian forces had begun to cross the Ukrainian border.
Russia is pulling staff from its embassy in Kiev; UN warns of refugee crisis if war breaks out
He also announced a series of coordinated penaltiesHe added that the immediate consequences of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine include the loss of an important natural gas pipeline and the cutting of global financing to two Russian banks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin “is as ready as we can be, we say it every day, and it’s certainly possible that today will be that day,” a senior US defense official told reporters in Washington.
Moscow refuses to plan an invasion and describes the warnings as anti-Russian hysteria. But Ukraine took no steps to withdraw troops deployed along its borders.
On Wednesday, he took down flags from his embassy in Kiev, ordering his diplomats to evacuate for security reasons.
Meanwhile, the UN was told that a full-scale invasion of Ukraine would have a devastating global impact, possibly triggering a new “refugee crisis”.
The US said a war could displace as many as five million people, while Ukraine’s foreign minister said such a conflict would mark the “end of world order as we know it”.
The warnings came during an annual General Assembly session, where Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the agency that “our world is facing a moment of danger” due to the crisis.