NATO allies concerned by Zelensky move to leave Ukraine, threat of Russian invasion almost certain

President Biden provides updates on Russia and Ukraine

NATO allies, including White House officials, are concerned by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s decision to depart Kyiv for the Munich Security Conference this weekend, sources told Fox News Friday. 

Allies of the 30-member alliance are reportedly worried that Russia could exploit the president’s absence as tension in Eastern Europe has reached a boiling point not seen in decades. 

Image released by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense on Thursday Feb 17, 2022 shows the frontline of Donbas, a conflict area with the Russian-backed separatists, during President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s visit to the Donetsk region in the east of Ukraine.
(EYEPRESS via Reuters Connect)

Zelenskyy, who is set to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris on Saturday, is expected to be a key target if Russia does successfully invade Kyiv, sources confirmed. 

President Biden said Friday he is “convinced” that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine. 

In answer to questions from reporters as to whether he believed it would be a mistake for Zelensky to leave Ukraine at this time Biden said, “It may not be…the wise choice, but it’s his decision.”

“That’s a judgment for him to make,” Biden said. “It’s in the pursuit of a diplomatic solution.”

A senior U.S. defense official told Fox News Digital there is a strong possibility of a “significant invasion” by the Russian military in the coming days and Kyiv is its sites. 

President Joe Biden speaks from the White House, Washington, D.C.
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The official said Russian military forces have left their barracks and that roughly 40-50% of Putin’s troops have moved into attack positions — putting them within striking distance of the Ukrainian border. 

Putin now has 120-125 Battalion Tactical Groups amassed along Ukraine’s border. All Special Forces have been mobilized, and rocket forces along with ballistic missile units are within range of the capital.

Destabilization efforts that the U.S. and NATO have warned against “has begun,” the senior U.S. defense official said. 

Tensions in Eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists have clashed with the Ukrainian military since 2014, mounted this week and resulted in an exchange of artillery shelling that began Thursday.

A participant of an open civil defence exercise aims at a target, Uzhhorod, western Ukraine 
(Serhii Hudak/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Leaders of two the separatist groups called for an evacuation of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, and leaders of the self-proclaimed republics claimed Friday that Russia has allegedly agreed to host evacuees.

Ukrainian officials and Russian-backed separatists have blamed each other for the attacks. 

The U.S. has not said who is responsible for the attacks, but officials have been sounding the alarm that Russia is laying the groundwork for an incursion.

The State Department this week pointed to false claims by Putin regarding human rights abuses, and a spokesperson told Fox News Digital the evacuation effort is just the latest “false flag operation.”

Harris reaffirmed that the Biden administration remains committed to engaging with Moscow, but said the focus of the security talks will be in maintaining a united front to deter Russian aggression.

“We have made clear that we remain open to diplomacy,” she said from Munich Friday. “The onus is on Russia at this point to demonstrate that it is serious in that regard.”

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