Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday declared that Wednesday will be a day of unity, as he addressed reports that a Russian invasion of his country could begin that day.
The comments from the Ukrainian leader, made in an address to his nation posted on Facebook, come amid heightened tensions between Kyiv and Moscow. The Biden administration had warned on Friday that an attack on Ukraine could be imminent.
Zelensky wrote in the statement on Facebook that the decree declaring a day of unity had already been signed.
“We are told that February 16 will be the day of the attack,” he said, according to a Facebook translation of his comments.
Ukrainian officials told reporters in Kyiv that Zelensky was not being literal about an attack on Wednesday – though that day has circulated in news reports as a possible opening day of a Russian campaign on Ukraine.
Zelensky and Ukraine’s government have criticized the United States at times for over-stating the danger of an imminent Russian invasion of the country.
The Associated Press, citing intelligence obtained by the U.S., reported that Russia was eyeing Wednesday as the target date for an attack.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters on Monday “we still don’t believe that some final decision has been made.”Asked about Zelensky’s statement and the mention of Feb. 16, Kirby said “I’m not going to talk about specific intelligence assessments, I think you can understand that. We have said for a while now that military action could happen any day.”
He later said “I won’t get into a specific date, I don’t think that would be smart. I would just tell you that it is entirely possible that he could move with little to no warning.”
Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border. The troop buildup had raised concerns among the U.S. and NATO allies that Russia is planning a military incursion, but Moscow has continually denied having any such plans.
Officials from Ukraine, Russia and NATO nations have engaged in diplomatic discussions for weeks with hopes of easing the tensions in the region, but the conversations did not bear any breakthroughs.
President Biden spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday and said that “swift and severe costs” would follow if Moscow invaded Ukraine.
Soon after Zelensky posted his statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the U.S. was “in the process of temporarily relocating our Embassy operations” from Kyiv to Lviv “due to the dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces.”