Russia-Ukraine Live Updates: Biden 'Convinced' Putin Made Decision to Invade Ukraine

Live Updates
  • President Joe Biden says he is "convinced" that Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the decision to invade Ukraine. The U.S. believes the attack could happen in the "coming days," with Kyiv being a target.
  • Biden held a phone call with Transatlantic leaders on continued diplomatic and deterrence efforts Friday afternoon.
  • The United States received a response from the Russian Federation Thursday to its security proposals; it is now under evaluation.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris is leading the U.S. delegation to the Munich Security Conference.
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin addressed U.S. troops stationed at the Powidz Air Base in Poland on Friday.
Munich Security Conference
Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, foreground center, accompanied by Latvian President Egils Levits, left, Vice President Kamala Harris, center background, and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, right, speaks during a meeting at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 18. Andrew Harnik/Pool/AP Photo

Video shows apparent explosions in Ukraine

A large explosion reportedly took place in eastern Ukraine.

Video shows a large fire after the apparent explosion linked to a gas pipeline in separatist area of Luhansk in Donetsk. The preliminary reports come from Russian media.

A second explosion was heard in the region minutes later.

This incident comes after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned of more "false flag" attacks from Russia to lay a pretext for war with Ukraine.

Biden believes Putin has made decision to invade

President Joe Biden is "convinced" that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine.

"As of this moment, I'm convinced he's made the decision," Biden said during a press conference Friday afternoon from the White House.

"We have reason to believe that," he said, citing "significant intelligence capability."

Biden said the U.S. believes that Russian forces intend to attack Ukraine in the "coming days," targeting Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million people.

Biden said diplomacy is always a possibility, until an invasion does occur.

Biden discussed Russia and Ukraine tensions

During a press briefing Friday, President Biden discussed tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

"We have reason to believe they'll attack the capitol if Russia pursues these plans," Biden stated.

President Biden also said Russia would be responsible for the needless war of choice.

"We are prepared to defend every inch of NATO territory and we won't send troops to fight in Ukraine," Biden added.

Blinken to meet with Lavrov in coming days

The U.S. is prepared to issue severe sanctions if Russia invaded the Ukraine, Biden said.

The president reiterated that the door to diplomacy remains open, as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Feb. 24.

If an invasion occurs before that meeting, however, Biden said Russia will have "slammed the door shut on diplomacy."

"The entire free world is united," Biden said. "Russia has a choice between war and all the suffering it will bring and choosing diplomacy."

Biden talk with Congress, allies

President Joe Biden made two virtual calls today to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

The first was to a bipartisan group of Congress members and Vice President Kamala Harris.

The second was to the heads of state to NATO and European Union allies.

Biden said the U.S. and its partners "continue to remain in lockstep.

"Despite Russia's efforts to divide us at home and abroad, that has not happened," Biden said.

He added that unity, determination and resolve were the main messages from his calls.

White House backs Ukraine

The White House is backing Ukraine, saying it believes Russia was responsible for the cyberattacks earlier this week.

Anne Neuberger, White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology, told reporters Friday the U.S. believes that Russia is responsible for the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks in Ukraine. The attack affected two state-owned banks and the country's defense ministry, The Hill reported.

"We have assessed that Russia was responsible for the DDoS attacks that occurred earlier this week," Neuberger said.

Watch: Biden delivers remarks amid rising tensions

President Joe Biden will provide an update regarding the ongoing crisis in Ukraine Friday afternoon.

The White House says Biden will address ongoing diplomatic efforts and Russia's buildup of military troops on Ukraine's border.

The remarks are scheduled following Biden's phone call with Transatlantic leaders on continued diplomatic and deterrence efforts.

Biden is scheduled to deliver remarks Friday at 4 p.m. ET from the White House, you can watch live here or below:

Ex-Ukrainian official says 'mass shelling' expected

Ukrainian intelligence indicates that Russia-backed separatists in Luhansk made a preliminary decision to target the positions of Ukrainian military personnel with "mass shelling" on February 18 after midnight, according to former Ukrainian Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov.

Avakov shared the data on the talk show "Gordon," according to Gordon's website, owned by Ukrainian journalist Dmitry Gordon.

"A preliminary decision was made on mass shelling of the positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from archery weapons and mortars along the entire line of contact of the second army corps," Avakov told Gordon.

"It is also allowed to use artillery at the discretion of local commanders. The shelling starts at 00:30 Kyiv time," he said.

He said the data identified the areas of Shchastya, Slavyanoserbsk and Zheltoye as main targets and urged Ukrainians to be alert, the outlet reported.

Ukranian Kindergarten shelled by Pro-Russian forces

Russia's shelling of Stanytsia Luhanska in Ukrainian government-controlled territory in Donbas hit a kindergarten, causing injuries to two teachers, and knocked out power in the village, the US Embassy in Kyiv tweeted on Thursday.

"This attack, as with so many others, is a heinous Russian violation of the Minsk Agreements and again demonstrates Russia's disregard for Ukrainian civilians on both sides of the line of contact," the embassy added.

The shelling came as monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported a surge in ceasefire violations and a spate of shelling attacks along the frontline on Thursday alone. A school in Vrubivka, in the Luhansk region, was also damaged by the shelling Thursday among the intensified attacks. Thirty-seven school children were inside when a shell sent shrapnel into the building. Still, they were not injured, according to local reports.

Video footage from The Sun shows the severe damage that was done to the school's building during the alleged attacks.

U.K. Prime Minister says the situation in Ukraine is "grim"

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the situation with Ukraine "continues to be very grim."

Johnson said the kindergarten that was shelled was a "false flag" meant to discredit Ukraine and create a pretext for Russian action.

According to the Ukraine Defense Ministry, Russian occupation forces shelled Stanytsia Luhanska in Ukraine-controlled Donbas Thursday morning, damaging a kindergarten.

"We fear very much that is the kind of think we'll see more of over the next few days," Johnson said, adding that Russia will face heavy sanctions if it invades.

Johnson will travel to the Munich Security Conference to join allies and partners, including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to strengthen the eastern flank of NATO and "unify the West."

Lavrov blames West for escalation claims

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied claims of further Russian aggression toward Ukraine Thursday, blaming the West for spreading information about escalation.

Lavrov made the remarks during talks with Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi di Maio in Moscow.

"This entire situation is not developing here in Russia, but in the minds and media of the West, above all the United States and Great Britain," Lavrov said.

"Of course, [NATO Secretary General] Mr. Stoltenberg is actively contributing to these developments, so all the questions about how to deal with the so-called escalation should be addressed to them."

Russia has maintained claims of withdrawing troops from the border in recent days; however, the United States and United Kingdom have both said there is no evidence to support that claim.

Lavrov and Di Maio briefing
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, left, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attend a joint news conference following their talks in Moscow, Russia on Feb. 17. Shamil Zhumatov/Associated Press/Pool

During an address Tuesday from the White House, President Joe Biden said the U.S. and NATO are "not a threat to Russia."

"We're not targeting the people of Russia," Biden said.

"We do not seek to destabilize Russia. To the citizens of Russia — you are not our enemy. And I do not believe you want a bloody, destructive war against Ukraine."

Secretary Blinken heads to Germany

In a tweet Thursday, U.S. Secretary Anthony Blinken announced that he was en route to Germany to the Munich Security Conference.

Secretary Blinken also laid out his plans ahead of his arrival at the conference.

"En route to Germany for MSC2022. I'll also meet with NATO
Allies and partners on our coordinated, ongoing efforts to urge Russia to deescalate and choose diplomacy, as well as our readiness to impose severe costs should Russia further invade Ukraine," Blinken tweeted.

UN Ambassador calls out Russia as sole aggressor

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations called out Russia as the sole aggressor amid tensions with Ukraine.

During the second time in two weeks, the U.N. Security Council met to discuss Russia's actions against Ukraine.

"The rest of the Security Council has delivered a clear, unambiguous message to Russia to pursue the diplomatic path; do not pursue the path of confrontation," U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. "Unfortunately, we are deeply concerned that this is the path Russia has chosen."

She called Russia's remarks over the past few days "incendiary rhetoric and disinformation" and blames the Kremlin for threatening international order and agreements.

"Let's be clear: there is only one country – one country – making threats here. It is Russia," she said. "There is only one country – one country – with 150,000 troops on the border, poised to attack. And that country is Russia"

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin called claims that Russia will invade Ukraine "baseless" speculation.

"I think we've had enough speculation on that," Vershinin said. "We have long ago clarified everything and explained everything. And the announced date of this so-called invasion is behind us, so advice to you is [to] not present yourself in an awkward situation."

He said Russian forces are on Russian territory and will remain there and called out Ukraine for not adhering to its obligations under the Minsk agreement.

Vershinin refuted others' called claims that Russia is not adhering to its own obligations, calling such accusations "futile."

"Attempts to place blame on Russia are futile and baseless," he said. "And this only hides the goal of shifting the blame away from Ukraine. I must say, we are very disappointed by the...position of our Western colleagues who are trying not to see obvious things."

Defense Secretary Austin arrives in Poland

In a tweet Thursday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced his arrival in Poland to speak with defense officials as the potential of a Russian invasion of Ukraine increases.

"I just arrived in Poland. The United States has a deep appreciation for our Alliance and our shared values, and I'm especially thankful for their gracious hosting of U.S. forces," Austin tweeted.

While in Poland, Austin will also meet with Poland's president and defense minister. At the same time, in that country, the U.S. deployed about 4,700 troops of the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., in the past two weeks as tensions simmered with Russia.

U.K. is bolstering support for NATO allies in Eastern Europe

The United Kingdom is ramping up its support to NATO and Ukraine.

The U.K. announced it will double the number of personnel in Estonia and send additional equipment, including tanks and armored fighting vehicles.

Four additional U.K. jets in Cyprus will provide aid to NATO allies in Eastern Europe.

"Alongside our NATO Allies, we are deploying troops and assets on land, sea and air to bolster European defenses in response to the build-up of Russian military forces on the border of Ukraine," Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement.

"NATO and our allies have been clear that an invasion of Ukraine will be met with severe consequences," he added. "De-escalation and diplomacy remain the only path out of this situation."

UK intelligence shares possible invasion routes

The latest intelligence from the UK Ministry of Defense shows Russia could invade "without further warning" as it retains a "significant" military presence.

The Ministry shared a map Thursday showing Russian President Vladimir Putin's "possible axis of invasion."

The map illustrates potential ground movements, divided into two phases.

"Phase One" includes three possible ground movements toward Kyiv from Belarus and Russia. It also shows two possible ground movements toward Dnipro.

The Ministry refuted Russia's claims of units returning to bases after drill practices, saying it has seen "no evidence" of troops being withdrawn.

"He [Putin] still can choose to prevent conflict and preserve peace," the UK Ministry of Defense tweeted.

Blinken addresses UN "not to start a war, but to prevent one"

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned of Russia's anticipated next steps in furthering its aggression toward Ukraine during a United Nations Security Council meeting Thursday. Blinken said "every opportunity" is being presented to Russia to reach a diplomatic solution.

"I am here today, not to start a war, but to prevent one," Blinken said.

"The information I've presented here is validated by what we've seen unfolding in plain sight before our eyes for months," Blinken said.

The Secretary of State pointed to Russia steadily amassing 150,000 troops on Ukraine's borders in recent weeks as well as the "capabilities to conduct a massive military assault."

Blinken said Russia would likely respond to his remarks to the UN Security Council Thursday with further dismissal of its plans to invade Ukraine and claiming the U.S. is "stoking hysteria."

"The Russian government can announce today with no qualifications, equivocation or deflection that Russia will not invade Ukraine, stated clearly, stated plainly to the world," Blinken said.

"And then demonstrate it by sending your troops, your tanks, your planes, back to their barracks and hangars and sending your diplomats to the negotiating table. In the coming days, the world will remember that commitment. Or the refusal to make it."

Blinken again warned of a "sharp and decisive" response in the event of a Russian invasion. He reiterated diplomacy is the "only responsible way" to resolve the crisis and proposed a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Europe next week.

Vice President Harris heads to Europe

On Thursday, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is traveling to Munich, Germany, to attend an annual gathering of security leaders and present a show of NATO unity amid the threat of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The official said the vice president would discuss a "full range of issues" throughout the trip.

The discussions will include unity between allies, the economic measures prepared and imposed if Russia invades Ukraine, the U.S. and NATO's position, showing support for Ukraine, and the "diplomatic path to de-escalation" that the U.S. has offered Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The vice president's trip to Germany comes as U.S officials said Moscow had added as many as 7,000 troops near its border with Ukraine. However, they did not believe earlier assertions that some forces returned to their bases.

Blinken warns Russia is manufacturing a pretext for war

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia is preparing to launch an attack in the coming days.

He said the world can expect Russia to "manufacture a pretext" for an attack by leveling "outrageous accusations" against the Ukraine government. This may include blaming "fabricated terrorist bombings," chemical attacks and mass graves on Ukraine.

Russia has already amassed 150,000 troops on the Ukraine border and in Belarus and Crimea "without provocation or justification," Blinken said.

He said the Russia media has already begun spreading false claims to rally public outrage and lay the groundwork for a justification for war and accused the Russian government of holding meetings to respond to manufactured crises.

Next, Blinken said, the Russian attack will begin. This may include missiles and bombs dropped in Ukraine, cyberattacks to shut down Ukrainian institutions and tanks advancing on key targets like Kyiv and specific groups of Ukrainians.

U.S. now reviewing Russia's response

Russia delivered its response to the U.S. Thursday morning, Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed during a UN Security Council meeting.

The response disapproved proposals from the West to meet Russian security demands and reiterated that Moscow could take unspecified "military-technical measures" if concerns are not addressed, according to the Associated Press.

Russia stated it was also ready to "engage in talks on limiting missile deployments in Europe, restrictions on military drills and other confidence-building measures," AP reports.

Blinken said the response is now under evaluation.

The U.S. delivered its proposal to Russia more than three weeks ago, detailing steps to address mutual security concerns.

Blinken sent a letter early Thursday to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov proposing a meeting in Europe next week.

"To discuss the steps that we can take to resolve this crisis without conflict," Blinken explained.

Blinken says additional meetings have also been proposed with the NATO-Russia Council and the OSCE Permanent Council.

"These meetings can pave the way for a summit of key leaders in the context of de-escalation to reach understandings on our mutual security concerns."

Russia sends thousands more troops to Ukraine border

During a press briefing aboard Air Force One, Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters in the last several days, Russia has increased its troop's presence along the Ukraine border by as many as 7000 soldiers.

The increase in troops came just after the Russian government said it would withdraw troops from the Ukraine border, causing great concern amongst U.S. officials.

"This is cause for serious concerns," Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Jean-Pierre also added that a U.S. Deputy Ambassador was pushed out of Russia; however, she didn't provide any further comment on the matter but instead referred reporters to the U.S. State Department.

Watch: Blinken addresses UN Security Council

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to address the UN Security Council during its meeting Thursday at UN Headquarters in New York City.

His remarks were scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Watch live here or below:

Overnight, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield asked Blinken to speak directly to the UN Security Council following a "series" of conversations with the White House, National Security Council and the State Department.

"Our goal is to convey the gravity of the situation," Thomas-Greenfield tweeted. "The evidence on the ground is that Russia is moving toward an imminent invasion. This is a crucial moment."

"That's why Secretary Blinken is coming to New York on his way to Munich to signal our intense commitment to diplomacy, to offer and emphasize the path toward de-escalation, and to make it clear to the world that we are doing everything we can to prevent war," she said.

Blinken is then headed to Munich to attend the Munich Security Conference and discuss ongoing diplomacy efforts with U.S. Allies and partners.

Biden says threat of Russian invasion is "very high"

President Joe Biden said the threat of a Russia invasion into Ukraine is "very high."

"They have not moved any of their troops out. They've moved more troops in, number one," Biden told reporters before boarding Air Force One. "Number two, we have reason to believe they are engaged in a false flag operation. Every indication we have is they're prepared to go into Ukraine to attack Ukraine."

Biden expects the invasion will happen "within the next several days."

He also added that a diplomatic path is still open, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken heads to the United Nations this morning.

"There is a path," he said. "There is a way through this."

But Biden said he has no plans to call Russian President Vladimir Putin.

NATO to hold joint press briefing Thursday

According to Foreign Policy's national security reporter Jack Detsch, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will have a joint press conference Thursday at 7:30 a.m. EST, from the alliance's headquarters in Brussels.

"This is a standard practice, but will be an important messaging signal amid Russia's buildup over Ukraine," Detsch said in a tweet.

Price says Russia's words contrast actions

State Department Spokesperson Ned Price says there is growing concern amid Russia's apparent escalatory actions against Ukraine.

Russia's claims of withdrawing troops is cause for concern, Price said, pointing to Russia's ongoing campaigns of misinformation.

"We certainly have not been able to verify them, and in fact, we've seen the opposite," Price said.

Price said Russia has continued to add forces along the border that would be needed to "undertake an aggressive action" at any moment.

"This is the Russian playbook," Price said, citing the similarities regarding misinformation between now and 2014. "Their words stand in stark contrast to their actions."

He reiterated that the United States remains open to a diplomatic solution, but it must be done in the context of de-escalation. Price said the State Department is attempting to be as transparent as possible to first, and best case scenario, attempt to prevent or deter an invasion.

"If we're not able to do that, what we will have done is to have put a spotlight on the fact that this was all a charade, this was all a show," Price said.

"While the Russians were claiming de-escalation, while the Russians were claiming a commitment to dialogue, that the opposite was taking place."

State Department enacts Ukraine task force

A Ukraine task force was established in recent days, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

Price said the task force is operating with a large team and incorporating many elements of the State Department.

"Planning for a task force like this has been in the works for weeks now," he said.

U.S. citizens urged again to leave Ukraine now

On Wednesday, in a tweet, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price urged U.S. citizens to leave Ukraine now.

"We've said this before, but it bears repeating: U.S. citizens in Ukraine should depart now," Price said.

"The State Department has opened a welcome center in Przemyśl, Poland, near both the Korczowa-Krakovets and Medyka-Shehyni border crossings, to assist U.S. citizens who have entered from Ukraine," Price added.

In October, the State Department estimated that about 6,600 American citizens resided in Ukraine, many of them dual nationals, along with an unknown number of tourists and travelers.

U.S. still waiting for response from Russia

It's been over two weeks since the United States sent a written response to Russia that outlined areas of mutual concern up for good-faith discussion.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the U.S. is still waiting to receive a response from Moscow.

Price said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov promised the response to State Secretary Blinken "in the next couple of days."

"We will give it a very close read," Price said. "We hope there is constructive feedback. We hope the Russians are willing to engage in dialogue and diplomacy to resolve this peacefully."

Secretary Blinken to visit Germany

According to a statement released by U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will travel to Munich, Germany, to attend the Munich Security Conference from February 17 to 20, 2022.

According to the statement, the Secretary will have the opportunity to discuss coordinated, ongoing efforts to urge Russia to deescalate and choose the path of diplomacy with Allies and partners.

Our readiness to impose severe costs should Russia further invade Ukraine will also be included in discussions.

The Secretary will also reaffirm our support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Finally, he will have bilateral meetings with his counterparts to address our commitment to transatlantic coordination to strengthen European security and other ongoing global challenges.

During a press briefing Wednesday, a reporter asked U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, what to expect from the Secretary's visit to Germany.

Price stated that the visit is an opportunity for Secretary Blinken to meet with his counterparts and attend bilateral engagements. "Russia will be top of mind, and I assume the top of the discussion," Price added.

Psaki says cyberattacks are in Russia's playbook

While officials have not yet determined who was behind the cyberattacks on Ukraine, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said such actions are part of Russia's playbook.

Psaki said the White House has been warning "for months" about a potential cyberattack and other false flags from Russia.

"There could be a range of false flags and pretexts that we would expect would precede an invasion," she said.

Without getting into intelligence details, Psaki said "we remain in the window" for an attack on Ukraine but emphasized that the door is still open for diplomacy.

Psaki also noted the difference between Russia words and its actions as she reiterated State Secretary Antony Blinken's assessment that Russia has not fulfilled its promises to de-escalate.

"There's what Russia says and there's what Russia does," Psaki said, adding that the U.S. is watching closely as Russia troops remain amassed at the Ukraine border in a "threatening way."

Psaki said there is no specific metric to determine what a meaningful pullback of Russian troops would look like, but "we'll know it when we see it."

Watch: State Department briefing

The State Department will hold its daily briefing Wednesday afternoon amid ongoing Russian aggression toward Ukraine.

Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Good Morning America that the U.S. has seen "no meaningful pullback" of Russian forces at the Ukrainian border.

The State Department reiterated its message to U.S. citizens in Ukraine to "leave now."

The press conference is scheduled for 2 p.m., watch live here or below:

NATO Defense Ministers urge Russia withdraw troops

NATO Defense Ministers issued a joint statement Wednesday, voicing 'grave' concerns amid Russia's military buildup around Ukraine and in Belarus.

In response to the "serious threat" to Euro-Atlantic security, additional land forces will be deployed in the eastern part of the Alliance.

"We urge Russia, in the strongest possible terms, to choose the path of diplomacy, and to immediately reverse its build-up and withdraw its forces from Ukraine in accordance with its international obligations and commitments," the statement reads.

The Defense Ministers call the measures "preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory."

"As a consequence and to ensure the defense of all Allies, we are deploying additional land forces in the eastern part of the Alliance, as well as additional maritime and air assets, as announced by Allies, and have increased the readiness of our forces," the statement continues.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Times Radio there is no evidence of Russia withdrawing troops, saying the buildup continues.

"[As of Tuesday] We were seeing a continued increase in things like field hospitals into the area," Wallace told Times Radio.

"We saw some movement of Russian military forces from sort of holding areas to more front-footed deploying areas."

White House press briefing to start soon

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki is set to give a the daily press briefing soon.

This briefing comes as Secretary of State Antony Blinken was called into a meeting with President Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin meets with NATO defense officials in Brussels.

The briefing can be streamed on the White House website or YouTube channel.

Cyberattacks hit Ukranian websites

Amid threats of Russian invasion, a series of cyberattacks on Tuesday pulled down a total of 10 websites of the Ukrainian army, the defense ministry, and significant banks causing fear among the Ukrainians.

According to the Associated Press, these attacks could be a smokescreen for a more severe and damaging cyber threat.

As per AP, the websites are barraged with a flood of junk data packets in such attacks, leaving them unreachable.

A top Ukrainian cyber defense official, Victor Zhora, told the Associated Press that there is no information of disruptive actions that the DDoS attacks could hide. He added that the emergency response teams worked to recover the systems and identify the attackers.

Meanwhile, the customers at Ukraine's largest state-owned bank, Privatbank, and state-owned Sberbank faced problems regarding online payments and bank apps due to these attacks.

The Ukrainian Information Ministry's Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security, Zhora agency assured the people in an official statement that there was no threat to depositor's funds. The statement added that there was no effect on the communications of Ukraine's military forces.

Ukraine celebrates Day of Unity

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared a day of unity across the country Wednesday as Russian troops continue to build at its border.

"We are told that February 16 will be the day of attack," Zelensky said. "We will make it a union day."

Zelensky called on all towns and villages to fly the Ukrainian flag and sing the national anthem at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning.

"We are intimidated by a great war and once again set the date of the military invasion," Zelensky said in a Facebook video.

"This is not the first time. But our state is stronger today than ever. We strive for peace and want to solve all issues exclusively through negotiations. And Donbass, and Crimea will return to Ukraine. Only in a diplomatic way."

Hundreds unfolded a Ukrainian flag stretching 650 feet in Kyiv's Olimpiyskiy Stadium Wednesday.

Ukraine Day of Unity
A 200 meter long Ukrainian flag is unfolded at the Olympiyskiy stadium in Kyiv, Ukraine on Feb. 16. Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo

Leaders from several countries around the world voiced their support for Ukraine on the Day of Unity.

More than 150,000 Russian troops encircle Ukraine as of Feb. 16. President Joe Biden warned a Russian attack would be met with "overwhelming international condemnation."

"We are ready with diplomacy, and we are ready to respond decisively to a Russia attack on Ukraine, which is still very much a possibility," Biden said Wednesday.

Flag waves over Ukraine
A Ukrainian national flag waves over the center of Kharkiv on Feb. 16. Mstyslav Chernov/AP Photo

Blinken called in for meeting at White House

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was called in for an unscheduled meeting at the White House this morning.

Blinken was set to host the virtual Summit for Democracy Wednesday morning but was called away by President Joe Biden.

The Secretary had to cut his time at the summit short, leaving the event after he delivered his opening remarks.

Earlier this morning, Blinken told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that the U.S. has seen "no meaningful pullback" of Russia forces on the Ukraine border.

"On the contrary, we continue to see forces, especially forces that would be in the vanguard of any renewed aggression against Ukraine, continuing to be at the border, to mass at the border," Blinken said.

He added that his intelligence suggests an invasion from Russia could come "at any time."

"President [Vladimir] Putin's put in place the capacity to act on very short notice," Blinken said. "He can pull the trigger. He could pull it today, he could pull it tomorrow, he could pull it next week."

EU leaders will meet Thursday

European Union leaders will meet to discuss the buildup of troops by Russia on the Ukrainian border on Thursday at 11:30 GMT, EU officials said.

The meeting will be held in Brussels and is expected to be an hour.

"The leaders are meeting in Brussels for the Africa summit, and they wanted to meet and discuss the crisis on the Ukrainian border, get updated, exchange information and views," an EU official said.

House Republicans introduce bill to sanction Russia

A group of House Republicans introduced legislation to impose sanctions on Russia in its ongoing aggression toward Ukraine and before a further invasion occurs.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Lead Republican Michael McCaul along with Congressmembers Mike Rogers, Mike Turner and Elise Stefanik introduced the Never Yielding Europe's Territory Act on Tuesday.

It proposes "meaningful" sanctions against Russia, additional support to Ukraine and funding to reassure NATO's Eastern Flank.

"Congress must now step in and act where the president has failed to deter Putin's belligerence," McCaul said.

"We are potentially just days away from what could be the largest invasion since World War 2, so we must impose consequences now on Putin, while also laying out the additional crippling penalties he would face after a further invasion of Ukraine."

While President Joe Biden has warned of "severe" economic consequences in the event of an invasion, the legislation seeks to impose those consequences before an invasion occurs as well.

What does the bill propose?

The legislation proposes sanctions on major Russian banks, immediately halting construction of the Nord Stream 2 project in the event of an invasion and supporting Ukraine with $500 million in Foreign Military Financing.

"Sanctioning Putin's cronies, enablers, and major banks BEFORE Russia further invades Ukraine to ensure Putin pays a price now for hybrid attacks already launched against Ukraine," the bill reads.

The bill also proposes doubling funding for U.S. military exercises in Europe in an effort to reassure NATO's Eastern Flank.

"This legislation sends an unmistakable message to Putin: the United States will cripple the Russian economy in the event of an invasion, and we will support every effort of our democratic partners to resist a Russian invasion," Stefanik said.