Feb 11, 2022 - World

Blinken warns Russia could invade Ukraine during Winter Olympics

Sec. Blinken looks ahead, appearing stressed
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a press conference in Melbourne on Feb. 11. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Russia continues to move troops and military equipment toward the Ukrainian border, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Friday. He warned that Russia could invade Ukraine soon, even during the Beijing Winter Olympics set to end Feb. 20.

Why it matters: Blinken said that American citizens in Ukraine should leave immediately, echoing a State Department advisory that said the U.S. will not be able to evacuate Americans from the country "in the event of Russian military action anywhere in Ukraine."

  • President Biden said during an NBC interview Thursday that Americans should leave Ukraine immediately.

What they're saying: "Simply put, we continue to see very troubling signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border," Blinken said during a press conference in Australia.

  • "And as we’ve said before, we’re in a window when an invasion could begin at any time. And, to be clear, that includes during the Olympics," he added.
  • "We’re continuing to draw down our embassy.  We will continue that process.  And we’ve also been very clear that any American citizens who remain in Ukraine should leave now."

The big picture: Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine's border but continues to deny that it has any plans to invade.

  • On Thursday, Russia and Belarus launched their largest joint military exercises ever, involving up to 30,000 troops and sophisticated missile systems.
  • Earlier this week, six Russian warships, including some that could be used in amphibious landing operations against Ukraine, entered the Black Sea from the Mediterranean for naval drills, Reuters reports.
  • Russia in the past has launched military offensives around the Olympics, most notably its invasion of Georgia just before the start of the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.

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