Biden tells Zelensky there's a 'distinct possibility' Russia could invade Ukraine in February

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Civilian volunteer troops practice in Ukraine.
Civilian volunteer troops practice in Ukraine. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

President Biden reiterated to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday that there is a "distinct possibility" Russia could invade Ukraine in February.

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne told reporters that Biden has "said this publicly and we have been warning about this for months." An estimated 100,000 Russian troops are stationed along the border with Ukraine, and Biden believes when the ground freezes, they could attack from the north of Kyiv, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

There is heavy equipment alongside the troops, and Russian President Vladimir Putin will want optimal ground conditions to move into Ukraine, the sources said. Russia invaded and later annexed the Crimean Peninsula in late February 2014.

Moscow has made several security demands, including that NATO roll back military deployments in Eastern Europe and prohibit Ukraine from ever joining the organization. The United States responded with a letter on Wednesday, rejecting those requests while also addressing some concerns that have the potential of being worked out. Having received this message, Russia believes there is "little ground for optimism," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, but "there always are prospects for continuing a dialogue, it's in the interests of both us and the Americans."

The United Nations Security Council will hold a meeting on Monday to discuss Russia's "threatening actions," U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, as the country's amassment of troops poses "a clear threat to international peace and security and the U.N. charter." The U.S. has also warned of sanctions, should Russia invade Ukraine, that would target high-ranking officials and industries. Senior U.S. officials told AP if Moscow doesn't cooperate, Germany would likely not allow Nord Stream 2, a new gas pipeline from Russia, to start operations.

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