Ukraine's Zelenskyy Says Russian Attack is February 16, Adviser Backtracks

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted a video on Facebook saying the country was informed that Russia would attack on February 16, but his office has since said he was apparently being ironic.

During the eight-minute video addressing the nation, Zelenskyy said, "We are told that February 16 will be the day of the attack. We will make it the Day of Unity. The relevant decree has already been signed. On this day, we will hoist national flags, put on blue and yellow ribbons and show the world our unity." However, Ukrainian officials say the president was being ironic when he made his comments about the possible invasion date and that he wasn't being literal, CNN reporter Vaughn Sterling tweeted.

The message from the Ukrainian leader and former comedian came amid concerns that Russia could invade the ex-Soviet country as more troops amass along the Ukrainian border. President Joe Biden's administration had previously warned that an invasion of Ukraine could be imminent, with the Associated Press reporting that U.S. intelligence indicated Russia was looking at Wednesday as the target date for an attack, but a source said they were unable to confirm how definitive the timeline or intelligence was.

"We believe they are in a position where they can invade anytime," a State Department spokesperson told Newsweek. "President Putin has a choice before him—diplomacy and de-escalation or severe costs if he further invades Ukraine."

The Russian military has more than 100,000 ground troops near Ukraine's eastern and southern border. Russia also have deployed missile, air, naval and special operation forces. The AP reported Russia moved six amphibious assault ships to the Black Sea last week to possibly send marines onto the coast.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters on Monday, "We still don't believe that some final decision has been made." When asked about Zelenskyy's statement regarding the February 16 attack, Kirby responded, "I'm not going to talk about specific intelligence assessments. I think you can understand that."

"We have said for a while now that military action could happen any day…I would just tell you that it is entirely possible he could move with little to no warning," Kirby added.

The Ukrainian government and Zelenskyy have previously criticized the United States for over-emphasizing the danger of Russia invading the country, Newsweek previously reported.

Following Zelenskyy's statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was "in the process of temporarily relocating our Embassy operations" from Kyiv to Lviv "due to the dramatic accelerating in the buildup of Russian forces," The Hill reported.

"I have ordered these measures for one reason—the safety of our staff—and we strongly urge any remaining US citizens in Ukraine to leave the country immediately," Blinken said in a statement.

Update 2/14/2022 1:45 p.m.: This story has been updated to provide additional details and background information.

Russia to Attack Ukraine February 16
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted a video on Facebook on February 14 saying Ukraine has been told that Russia is planning to attack in two days. Above, Zelenskyy talks during a news conference with the NATO secretary general after their bilateral meeting at the European Union headquarters in Brussels on December 16, 2021. John Thys/ AFP/Getty Images