Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday that his government has been told that Wednesday, Feb. 16, will be “the day of attack” when Russia invades Ukraine.
The United States and its allies have repeatedly warned of an imminent invasion by Russia, which has stationed some 130,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders to the north, south, and east. Russia denies it is planning an invasion. “We are told that February 16 will be the day of the attack,” Zelenskyy said in a statement posted on Facebook, without saying who provided this information.
Zelensky wrote in the statement on Facebook that the decree declaring a day of unity had already been signed. “We are told that February 16 will be the day of the attack,” he said, according to a Facebook translation of his comments.
Ukrainian officials told reporters in Kyiv that Zelensky was not being literal about an attack on Wednesday — though that day has circulated in news reports as a possible opening day of a Russian campaign on Ukraine. Zelensky and Ukraine’s government have criticized the United States at times for over-stating the danger of an imminent Russian invasion of the country.
The Associated Press, citing intelligence obtained by the U.S., reported that Russia was eyeing Wednesday as the target date for an attack. U.S. officials on Sunday, however, said they were unable to confirm reports regarding the timeline.’
Meanwhile, Russia has moved some long-range artillery and rocket launchers into firing positions, threatening Ukraine, according to a U.S. official. Some Russian units have left their assembly areas — the bumper-to-bumper formations seen in satellite photos — and are beginning to move into “attack positions,” according to the official.
This movement marks a change since Sunday when some of the units had left the assembly areas but had not yet taken what could be viewed as attack positions. The U.S. believes Russia will attack Ukraine by the end of the week, although it’s not yet certain what form it will take, the official said.
Once the Russian attack begins, U.S. knowledge of what is happening will dramatically decrease. Americans will have no troops on the ground and no reconnaissance planes over the air, and Russian cyber attacks and electronic warfare will blot out communications. U.S. officials say Russia now has 80% of the forces it will need to launch a full-scale invasion, and the rest are en route. More than 100,000 Russian troops are amassed along Ukraine’s borders — to the east, in Russia, and the north, in Belarus.