President Joe Biden has told Ukraine there is a 'distinct possibility' that Russia could invade the country as soon as next month, as talks between the US and Russia fail to make progress.
In a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Biden 'reaffirmed the readiness of the United States along with its allies and partners to respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine', but is reported to have been less optimistic about the prospect of further conflict.
The White House has pushed back on reports by CNN that Biden told Zelensky to 'prepare for impact' and warned that an invasion that could see its capital city Kyiv 'sacked' would likely take place once the ground freezes over winter.
In response, National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne tweeted, 'President Biden said that there is a distinct possibility that the Russians could invade Ukraine in February. He has previously said this publicly & we have been warning about this for months. Reports of anything more or different than that are completely false.'
In a separate statement, a spokesperson for the Kremlin said that they saw 'little ground for optimism' after the United States rejected Russia's main demand that the US rule out Ukraine and other eastern European countries from joining the NATO alliance.
Biden's call with Zelensky came after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that the US would continue to offer 'a serious diplomatic path forward', but warned that the US and NATO allies stood ready to provide a 'swift united response to further Russian aggression' should Russian president Vladimir Putin decide to launch an invasion.
'It remains up to Russia to decide how to respond. We're ready either way,' he said, per the BBC.
In recent weeks, Russia has amassed an estimated 100,000 troops at the Ukraine border, with Ukraine's allies, including the UK and the US, sending military equipment to the country as it prepares for a potential invasion. The US and Europe have also pledged to introduce 'devastating' economic sanctions against Russia should it invade.
Parts of Ukraine have been at war since 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Crimea, claiming it to be their sovereign territory.
Negotiators from both sides are set to meet again in Berlin in two weeks as part of efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
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