Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to speak with his US and French counterparts on Saturday after the United States warned that Moscow could invade Ukraine in days.
The United States had dramatically raised the alarm over Ukraine on Friday, saying a Russian invasion starting with civilians caught under aerial bombing could begin in days and telling US citizens to leave within 48 hours.
In a diplomatic flurry to head off a possible invasion, Putin will speak with Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron on Saturday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he will also speak to Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov the same day, terming this “a pivotal moment” in the crisis and that his government was “prepared for whatever should happen.”
“We continue to see very troubling signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving around Ukraine’s borders,” Blinken said at a press conference in Fiji.
“If Russia is genuinely interested in resolving this crisis of its own making through diplomacy and dialogue, we’re prepared to do that,” he said.
The White House had earlier warned of an attack by the more than 100,000 Russian troops currently massed next to Ukraine, even while the Beijing Olympics were still underway.
Blinken added that dialogue would only be possible if accompanied by “de-escalation.”
“So far, we’ve only seen escalation from Moscow,” he said, adding Russia has yet to respond to “some of the ideas” floated by Washington. “I’ll be asking Mr Lavrov if we can anticipate a response in the coming days, to see if we can carry the dialogue forward.”
Blinken declined to confirm whether the United States would be evacuating its embassy staff from Kyiv: “We’ll have more to say about that in the coming hours,” he said.
On Friday, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called on Americans to immediately leave Ukraine, warning a Russian attack “is likely to begin with aerial bombing and missile attacks that could obviously kill civilians.”
While stressing that it was not yet known whether Putin had taken a decision, saying “we can’t predict the exact determination,” Sullivan made clear the United States was bracing for the worst, including a “rapid assault” on the capital Kyiv.