“Any American in Ukraine should leave as soon as possible, and in any event within the next 24 to 48 hours,” Sullivan said. “We obviously can’t predict the future, we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. But the risk is now high enough and the threat is now sufficiently immediate that that’s what caution demands.”
“If a Russian attack on Ukraine continues, it will likely begin with aerial bombardment and missile attacks which obviously could kill civilians regardless of their nationality. A subsequent ground invasion would obviously involve the assault of a massive force “, he continued.
The warning came just before a senior defense official told CNN that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered 3,000 more troops from the 82nd Airborne to deploy to Poland, joining the 1,700 already present. The soldiers are there to help Americans who may attempt to leave Ukraine.
Despite this message, Sullivan added that it was not clear if Putin had decided to invade Ukraine.
“I want to be crystal clear. A final decision has not been made by President Putin, but we have a sufficient level of concern based on what we are seeing on the ground and what that our intelligence analysts have picked up that we’re sending this clear message and it remains a message that we’ve been sending now for some time. And it’s an urgent message because we’re in an urgent situation,” Sullivan said.
He later said there was a “very definite possibility” that Russia would act militarily, but could not determine when or how.
“I’m not going to go into intelligence information, but if you look at the forces in Belarus and Russia across the Ukrainian border from the north and east, the Russians are in a position to be able to mount an action major military in Ukraine in the day now,” he said.
Biden is expected to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone, Sullivan said. The president last spoke with the Russian leader in late December. Other leaders, notably French and German, have spoken with Putin in Moscow in recent days.
US plans to withdraw observers from Ukraine and send troops to Poland
Fears of an invasion have led the United States to plan to withdraw its impartial observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission to Ukraine as the security environment deteriorates, two sources familiar with said discussions.
The Biden administration is also discussing the possibility of further reducing the number of US embassy staff in Kyiv and withdrawing other US government employees from Ukraine amid new US intelligence suggesting that Russia could attack Ukraine before the end of the Beijing Olympics. next week.
The United States has estimated that Russia has more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, adding thousands this week, according to an administration official.
“We continue to downsize our embassy,” Blinken said at a news conference on Friday. “We will continue this process. And we have also been very clear that all US citizens who remain in Ukraine should leave now.”
“The main tasks of OSCE monitors are to impartially and objectively observe and report on the situation in Ukraine; and to facilitate dialogue between all parties to the crisis,” according to their website. They have also been tasked with monitoring ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine.
Last month, the United States ordered the departure of family members of diplomats from the United States Embassy in Kyiv and allowed non-essential personnel to leave on a voluntary basis.
CNN has reached out to the OSCE and the State Department for comment.
As plans are made for the observers to leave Ukraine, troops from the 82nd Airborne will head to neighboring Poland.
The soldiers will fall under the command of Major General Christopher Donahue, who was the force commander during the final evacuation and withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Three hundred members of the 18th Airborne Corps also arrived in Germany, the official said. They are under the command of Lieutenant General Michael Kurilla, who is expected to be the next commander of US Central Command.
This group of 5,000 soldiers will “reassure our NATO allies, deter potential aggression against NATO’s eastern flank, train with host nation forces and contribute to a wide range of contingencies”, said the manager.
On Wednesday, CNN reported that the White House had approved a plan for members of the 82nd Airborne in Poland to assist Americans who may attempt to leave Ukraine. Troops will begin setting up treatment areas and temporary shelters.
“The risk of conflict in Europe is real”
Biden on Thursday urged Americans in Ukraine to leave the country immediately, warning that “things could quickly get crazy” in the region.
The President spoke with the leaders of Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, NATO, the European Commission and the European Council during a call that lasted more than an hour on Friday morning.
Some call leaders later expressed concerns about the risk of invasion and urged increased diplomatic efforts with Russia.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement that “the risk of conflict in Europe is real”.
“Participants made it clear that any further Russian aggression against Ukraine would come at a high cost, while reiterating that they were ready to continue dialogue with Russia,” he said.
A Downing Street spokesman said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told his allies during the call that he feared for the security of Europe due to the current situation in Ukraine.
“He stressed the need for NATO allies to make it clear that there will be a hefty package of economic sanctions ready to be applied if Russia takes the devastating and destructive decision to invade Ukraine,” said the spokesperson.
Later Friday, a British diplomat told CNN that staff were not evacuating the British Embassy in Kyiv, but were “temporarily withdrawing all non-essential staff and dependents” and “a core team will remain to continue essential tasks”.
The French government said in a statement that the leaders on the call with allies discussed Russian military exercises that recently began in Belarus, saying the “leaders remain extremely vigilant in this regard.”
French President Emmanuel Macron and Putin will speak on Saturday, according to the Elysee.