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US Fans Russian Invasion Fears, Ukraine Refuses To Rule Out NATO Membership

Hours after he speculated a Russian attack on 16 February, President Zelenskyy issued a clarification on the same.

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The United States (US) on Monday, 14 February, indicated that it does not believe that Russia has reached a "final decision" on invading Ukraine, but that it "could move with little or no warning."

Speaking to reporters about Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby stated:

"We still don't believe that some final decision has been made... It is entirely possible that he could move with little to no warning."
John Kirby, as per ANI

He reportedly added that US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is slated to leave for Europe amidst mounting tensions on Tuesday, where he will lead meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels, and visit Poland and Lithuania.

Reacting to the mounting fears of military conflict, United Nations and France also expressed their worries on Monday.

The tensions in Ukraine are at an all-time high with Russia encircling the neighbour with close to 1,00,000 troops, and Washington warning of an "all-out invasion."

In a separate instance, Kirby reproached China, asserting that their undeclared support for Russia is "deeply alarming."

"Their [China's] tacit support, if you will, for Russia is deeply alarming and frankly even more destabilising to the security situation in Europe," Kirby stated in the Pentagon, AFP reported.

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Ukraine Refuses To Rule Out NATO Membership 

The Ukrainian ambassador to Britain has refused to rule out the possibility of his country joining NATO in order to avoid war with Russia.

Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko told the BBC that Ukraine was willing to be "flexible" regarding NATO membership.

Joining NATO could end up being the move that ultimately triggers a war.

When asked whether Ukraine was willing to adapt for the sake of world peace, Prystaiko said, "We might – especially being threatened like that, blackmailed by that, and pushed to it," as quoted in The Guardian.

Ukraine is not a NATO member, but was told in 2008 that it would have the chance to join at some time in the future.

In 2019, the Ukrainian Constitution was amended to include the objective of acquiring NATO membership.

Article 85, clause 5, emphasises on the "realisation of the strategic course of the state on acquiring full-fledged membership of Ukraine in the European Union and in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation."

Zelenskyy Issues Warning, Spokesperson Later Clarifies

Hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a statement that speculated a Russian attack on Ukraine on 16 February, he clarified later that he was referring only to media reports of the same.

His statement caused markets to nose-dive and made headlines all over the world.

"We are told that February 16 will be the day of the attack," Zelenskyy had said in a video statement posted on his Facebook profile.

The president's spokesperson, however, said that the president was only referring to published media reports that had been saying the same thing.

"The president referred to a date that was spread by the media," Sergii Nykyforov told NBC News.

Indeed, some US officials, while maintaining anonymity, told New York Times that Russia is considering Wednesday, 16 February, as the possible date to launch an invasion.

US intel had initially assessed that the Russian president will wait for the Winter Olympics in China to be over (on 20 February) before launching an assault on Ukraine.

New intel and the latest troop deployments, however, prompted officials to say that the invasion could happen before that date as well, such as 16 February.

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UN and France Express Concern, Scholz Visits Kyiv

In a live address, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged all nations embroiled in the crisis to find a diplomatic solution.

Saying that he is "deeply worried" about the speculations surrounding the crisis, he added, "The time is now to defuse tensions and deescalate actions on the ground. There is no place for incendiary rhetoric. Public statements should aim to reduce tensions, not inflame them.”

The secretary general also called upon the countries to "not fail the cause of peace."

Meanwhile, France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Monday said that Russia had "all the elements" in place for launching a major offensive against Ukraine, referring to the huge military deployments along the borders, AFP reported.

Speaking to France 5, the foreign minister stated, "Are there all the elements for a major offensive by Russian forces in Ukraine? Yes there are, it's possible, it's possible quickly."

He added, however, that there was still a diplomatic solution possible.

Additionally, Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Kyiv on Monday, 14 February, and attended a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Scholz told reporters that he saw "no reasonable justification" for Russia's border build-up, and that Putin should engage in talks with European leaders, Reuters reported.

Scholz and Putin are scheduled to meet on Tuesday, 15 February.

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US Embassy in Kyiv Relocated to Lviv 

In view of the "dramatic acceleration" of the Ukraine-Russia crisis, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday announced that the US embassy in Kyiv has been relocated to the Ukrainian city of Lvivi.

He added:

"The embassy will remain engaged with the Ukrainian government, coordinating diplomatic engagement in Ukraine... We are also continuing our intensive diplomatic efforts to deescalate the crisis."
Anthony Blinken, as per AFP

The leader "strongly urged" all remaining US nationals to leave the country on the brink of a crisis.

(With inputs from AFP, NBC News, Reuters, and The Guardian.)

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