NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance hasn’t seen “any withdrawal of Russian forces” at the Ukrainian border, but is hopeful that diplomacy should continue.
“Allies welcome all the diplomatic efforts and there are signs from Moscow that the diplomacy should continue. But so far, we do not see any sign of de-escalation on the ground. No withdrawals of troops or equipment. This may of course change,” Stoltenberg said while addressing reporters after a summit of NATO defense ministers in Brussels via CNN.
Stoltenberg’s comes as 150,000 Russian troops surround the east, north and south borders of neighboring Ukraine, as well as Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky suggesting Monday (February 14) that Russian troops planned to invade on Wednesday.
“We are told that February 16 will be the day of the attack. We will make it the Day of Unity,” Zelensky said in a statement, which spokesman Sergii Nykyforov later claimed was the president — a former comedian — referring “to a date that was spread by the media,” according to a statement obtained by NBC News.
On Monday, the U.S. announced its plans to close its embassy in Kyiv amid tensions in Ukraine and would “temporarily” relocate diplomatic staff to Lviv, which is located about 330 miles west and closer to the border of Poland, where the U.S. has already deployed thousands of troops.
On Saturday (February 12), Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the 160 members of the Florida National Guard assigned to the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team previously deployed to Ukraine in November 2021 to leave the country and reposition elsewhere in Europe, CNBC reported.
The Kremlin insists the presence is part of military exercises, though the significant growth over the weekend led to Zelenskyy questioning the increasingly strong statements from U.S. officials during the past few days regarding a possible Russian military invasion.