WASHINGTON: Hours after imposing strict economic sanctions on Russia, US officials warned Ukraine on Wednesday that a full-scale Russian invasion was imminent.
Meanwhile in Europe, Ukraine declared a state of emergency on Wednesday and told its citizens in Russia to come home, while Moscow began evacuating its Kyiv embassy in the latest ominous signs for Ukrainians who fear an all-out Russian military onslaught.
According to western estimates, the Kremlin has defied a barrage of international sanctions to put 150,000 forces on stand-by to occupy and defend two rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine. In response, Kyiv’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has put Ukraine’s more than 200,000 reservists on notice that they will receive summons to return to their units.
US President Joe Biden denounced the Russian moves as the beginning of an “invasion” and confirmed that Russian forces had begun crossing the Ukrainian border.
Russia pulls staff from embassy in Kyiv; UN warned of refugee crisis if war breaks out
He also unveiled a set of coordinated punishments, adding that the immediate consequences for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine included the loss of a key natural gas pipeline and cutting off global financing to two Russian banks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin “is as ready as he can be, we have been saying any day now and it’s certainly possible that today is that day,” a senior US defence official told reporters in Washington.
Moscow denies planning an invasion and has described warnings as anti-Russian hysteria. But it has taken no steps to withdraw the troops deployed along Ukraine’s frontiers.
On Wednesday, it took down flags from its embassy in Kyiv, having ordered its diplomats to evacuate for safety reasons.
Meanwhile, the UN was told that a full-scale invasion of Ukraine would have a devastating global impact that would likely spark a new “refugee crisis.”
The United States said a war could displace up to five million people while Ukraine’s foreign minister said such a conflict would mark “the end of the world order as we know it.”
The warnings came during an annual General Assembly session, where Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned the body that “our world is facing a moment of peril” over the crisis.
Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2022