Ukrainian officials are pushing back after President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared to suggest that Russian troops are planning to launch an attack on his country this Wednesday (February 16).
“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.
After news outlets began to report on what Zelensky said, his spokesperson, Sergii Nykyforov, responded by saying his comments were not meant to be taken literally.
“The president referred to a date that was spread by the media,” Nykyforov told NBC News.
Instead, Zelensky was trying to unify his country amid a Russian troop buildup Nykyforov explained.
Russia has stationed around 130,000 troops along its border with Ukraine over recent weeks as tensions continue to rise over the prospect of a Russian invasion.
“Today, we clearly understand all the challenges we face and what to do about them. We are confident but not self-confident. We understand all the risks. We are constantly monitoring the situation, calculating various scenarios, preparing worthy responses to all possible aggressive actions,” Zelensky added in the statement.
Earlier in the day, the United States announced it was closing the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. Officials said that the small number of remaining diplomatic staff will be “temporarily” relocated to Lviv, which is about 330 miles to the west. It is also close to the border of Poland, where thousands of U.S. troops have been deployed.
“I have ordered these measures for one reason, the safety of our staff, and we strongly urge any remaining U.S. citizens in Ukraine to leave the country immediately,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.