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The Pentagon said Wednesday that Russia is 80-percent prepared for a full invasion of Ukraine. That word came as Ukraine put in force a state of emergency, and Moscow said the separatists that Russia backs in eastern Ukraine had asked for Russian military help to fend off what they call "Ukrainian aggression." Nick Schifrin reports.
The Pentagon said today that Russia is poised to carry out a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
That word came as Ukraine put in force a state of emergency and as Moscow said that the separatists that Russia backs in Eastern Ukraine had asked for Russian military help to fend off what they claim is Ukrainian aggression.
Meantime, in Washington, President Biden announced new sanctions on the company that owns the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline that runs from Russia to Germany and on the company's corporate officers.
Nick Schifrin again begins our coverage.
In Kyiv today, all rise for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. This is Ukraine's National Security Council. And, today, they seemed to all rise to the challenge and possibility of war.
Oleksiy Danilov, Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary (through translator): The state of emergency will be introduced across the entire territory of the country, except the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
National Security Adviser Oleksiy Danilov announced a new war footing that could increase checkpoints and curfews, allow the government to seize property and billet soldiers in homes, and ban demonstrations and strikes.
Oleksiy Danilov (through translator):
We have said many times that the main task of Russia is to achieve its goal of internal destabilization. This decision was taken to prevent these actions.
The decision taken by Zelensky. Up until now, he has downplayed the threat. But, last night, he called up some reservists, and, today, alongside Polish and Lithuanian counterparts, said the military was prepared.
I know clearly, without any forecasts how our army will act. And, believe me, we are ready for everything.
The U.S. fears he needs to be ready for imminent invasion. A senior defense official says 80 percent of the more than 150,000 Russian troops deployed near Ukraine's borders are now in forward positions, some within two miles of the border and — quote — "uncoiled."
A Ukrainian official says the U.S. briefed Kyiv on new intelligence yesterday that action could start within hours. Russia is already targeting Ukraine online. This is Kyiv's newest cybersecurity facility, its job, investigate and respond.
Victor Zhora, Deputy Head, Ukrainian State Service for Special Communication and Information Protection: These are the very people that deal with cyberattack.
It's led by Victor Zhora. He gave a tour to "PBS NewsHour" producer Volodymyr Solohub and showed a chart of a recent spike in attacks.
You can see the significant growth of critical cyber incident.
That's a reference to denial of service attacks that crippled the Web sites of Ukraine's largest banks and the Foreign and Defense ministries. The U.S. and Kyiv blamed Russia. Today, several government Web sites went dark again.
We spoke to Zhora before today's attacks.
We are facing a hybrid aggression, and cyber aggression is a part of it. That means that, in case of a military invasion, it can be supported with the cyberattacks.
Attacks with which Ukraine is far too familiar.
In 2017, the U.S. says Russian intelligence used the malware NotPetya to disable much of Ukraine's banking system, before spreading around the world. And in 2015 and 2016, Russia targeted the Ukraine's electricity. The West has spent millions to try and make power companies more resilient.
The level of protection of energy companies now much higher than five years ago. I don't believe in full blackout on a country scale.
And he says he has backups if Kyiv itself comes under attack.
Of course, we have these plans B, and we have business continuity plans, which will allow our team, our specialists in cybersecurity to continue doing their work, which is so important in these challenging times.
The man creating the challenge today commemorated soldiers killed in World War II. This is Defender of the Fatherland Day. Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to continue the tradition.
Vladimir Putin, Russian President (through translator):
Our country is always open to a direct and honest dialogue and is ready to search for diplomatic solutions to the most complicated issues. But I want to repeat that Russia's interests and the security of our people are an indisputable priority.
But it's not Russia's priority to remain honest. This week, the government claimed Ukraine's military crossed into Russia, and even released a video of the offending invading tank. Kyiv called the claim fake.
And Russian media highlights supposed car bombs and attacks inside self-declared separatist Republicans that injure civilians. The U.S. and Ukraine accuse Russia of staging videos to justify an imminent invasion.
Watch the Full Episode
Nick Schifrin is the foreign affairs and defense correspondent for PBS NewsHour, based in Washington, D.C. He leads NewsHour's foreign reporting and has created week-long, in-depth series for NewsHour from China, Russia, Ukraine, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Cuba, Mexico, and the Baltics. The PBS NewsHour series "Inside Putin's Russia" won a 2018 Peabody Award and the National Press Club's Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence. In November 2020, Schifrin received the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Arthur Ross Media Award for Distinguished Reporting and Analysis of Foreign Affairs.
Layla Quran is a general assignment producer for PBS NewsHour. She was previously a foreign affairs reporter and producer.
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