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The United States believes Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine and has communicated those plans to the Russian military, Western and defense officials have told the PBS NewsHour.
Two additional administration officials tell the NewsHour that they expect the invasion to begin next week—reiterating what U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Feb. 10.
WATCH: Russia begins massive military exercises in Belarus, escalating tensions with Ukraine
The White House said Friday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could come within the week and urged Americans to leave the country now.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. still did not know if Russian President Vladimir Putin had made a decision to invade, but that all the elements are now in place for a rapid incursion.
“The risk is high enough and the threat is now immediate enough that prudence demands that it is the time [for Americans] to leave now,” Sullivan said.
“We are not saying that a decision has been taken by President Putin,” Sullivan said. “What we are saying is that we have a sufficient level of concern based on what we are seeing on the ground, and what our intelligence analysts have picked up, that we are sending this clear message.”
Defense officials anticipate a bloody campaign that begins with two days of aerial bombardment and electronic warfare, followed by an invasion, with the possible goal of regime change.
NATO Ambassador Julie Smith briefed the North Atlantic Council on this new intelligence this morning.
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.
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