Biden Says He Believes Putin Has Made Decision to Invade Ukraine

President Joe Biden said Friday that he believes Vladimir Putin has made the decision to invade Ukraine.

"As of this moment, I'm convinced he's made the decision. We have reason to believe that," Biden said during an address from the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

The president added that diplomacy is "always a possibility" until Putin makes a decision.

"The West is united and resolved," Biden said. "We're ready to impose severe sanctions on Russia if it further invades Ukraine. But I say again, Russia can still choose diplomacy. It is not too late to de-escalate and return to the negotiating table."

The update came after the president spoke with transatlantic allies on the escalating situation. The leaders discussed their "deep concern" over Russia's continued build-up of forces, according to the White House, and reiterated their support for Ukraine's sovereignty. They also talked about the importance of providing Ukraine with more economic assistance.

Fears of war between Russia and Ukraine have grown as Moscow amasses troops and equipment at its border with the Eastern European nation. Michael Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has reported that Russia has between 169,000 to 190,000 personnel on the ground in and around Ukraine.

Biden officials also believe Russia was behind widespread cyber attacks on Ukrainian banks and the country's defense ministry this week.

"Russia likes to move in the shadows and counts on a long process of attribution, so it can continue its malicious behavior against Ukraine in cyberspace, including pre-positioning for its potential invasion," Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, told reporters Friday.

President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin have denied planning to invade Ukraine. But Russia's motives remain unclear, as Putin talks diplomacy while also stating the nation won't compromise on their security demands.

The Kremlin also claimed this week that some troops stationed at the border have begun to withdraw, but the Biden administration has said that's not the case.

Biden Update Russia-Ukraine
President Joe Biden delivers a national update on the situation at the Russia-Ukraine border at the White House in Washington, D.C., February 18, 2022. Biden said he believes Vladimir Putin has made the decision to invade Ukraine, but that diplomacy is still on the table. Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Increased shelling has been reported in Ukraine over the past 24 hours. Ukraine's Joint Forces Operation said Friday morning that there had been more than 50 violations of ceasefire recorded.

Russian separatist leaders have launched evacuations from eastern Ukraine. Denis Pushilin, head of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic," also called for "all men able to hold a rifle in their hands." Head of the Lugansk People's Republic Leonid Pasechnik also told residents of the republic to leave for Russia in the short-term to "prevent civilian casualties."

Ukraine said Thursday it doesn't want to go to war with Russia but will "defend" itself if necessary.

"All we want to do is live peacefully in our own country," Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova told CNN. "We don't want to fight with Russians, but we will defend our country if we have to."

Biden has pledged to "rally the world" against Russia if it chooses to invade Ukraine and slap Putin with severe economic sanctions.