Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that Russia has “positioned its forces at the final point of readiness” for an invasion of Ukraine, which could come at any time.
NBC Nightly News host Lester Holt asked whether Blinken believed that Russian forces would begin a full invasion of Ukraine “before this night is over.” The secretary agreed, noting that Russian troops are stationed “across Ukraine’s borders, to the north, to the east, to the south.” He later attempted to backpedal his initial approval of Holt’s timetable, claiming that he couldn’t “put a date or an exact time on it.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he believes there is “still an opportunity to avert a major aggression” against Ukraine.
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) February 24, 2022
During an earlier interview on ABC World News Tonight, Blinken described Russia as “putting the final touches” on its troops for an invasion.
President Vladimir Putin announced Monday that Russia would recognize two breakaway oblasts in Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, as separate republics, and that he would send “peacekeeping” troops into the region, known collectively as Donbas. Putin also gave a fiery speech in which he denied the existence of Ukraine as a separate country, building off of a historical revisionist argument that he has given to defend his aggressive stance in Eastern Europe.
President Joe Biden and Putin had both expressed openness to a face-to-face meeting that was proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron, but National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan cast doubt on such a summit. Blinken canceled a planned meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, citing the Donbas force deployment.
The White House announced sanctions Tuesday against two Russian banks, and Blinken threatened more Wednesday. (RELATED: Republicans, Democrats Demand ‘Crippling’ Sanctions After Russia Invades Eastern Ukraine)
“What we have on the table – unprecedented sanctions – will have a severe impact,” he told CBS Evening News.
Several other countries also announced sanctions against Russia. The United Kingdom sanctioned five Russian banks, and froze the assets of three oligarchs who are now banned from the country.