Russia will order invasion of Ukraine at 3am tomorrow, sources say

Russia will launch an invasion of Ukraine on multiple fronts at 3am local time on Wednesday according to reports.

The Mirror says Russia will launch an airstrike on Kyiv’s military and government command and control centers before tanks cross the border.

And they say there could be a simultaneous attack on Ukraine’s southern coast using amphibious forces.

A senior American source has warned The Mirror’s team in Kyiv with a one-line message saying: “3am Wednesday.”

Russia has more than 126,000 troops near the eastern border of Ukraine and 80,000 Moscow-loyal soldiers in Belarus to the north.

There are thousands of marines on board warships in the Black Sea, threatening Ukraine’s southern coast.

Today Russia’s Defense Ministry announced that some units participating in military exercises would begin returning to their bases.

After weeks of rising tensions over Ukraine, the tenor changed on Monday, when Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov indicated that Russia was ready to keep talking about the security grievances that have led to the crisis.

It was not immediately clear how many troops are returning to bases — and the news came a day after western officials said some forces and military hardware were moving toward the border, muddying the picture.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz planned to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, a day after he sat down with Ukraine’s leader in Kyiv.

Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau of Poland, one of Russia’s most strident European critics, was also in Moscow on Tuesday to meet Mr Lavrov, while Ukraine’s foreign minister hosted his Italian counterpart.

At a made-for-television meeting with Mr Putin on Monday, Mr Lavrov signaled that Russia was ready to keep talking about the security grievances that have led to the crisis.

The comments seemed designed to send a message to the world about Mr Putin’s own position and offered some hope that war could be averted, even as Washington and allies kept up their warnings that troops could move on Ukraine as soon as Wednesday.

Russia denies it has any plans to invade Ukraine, and Mr Lavrov argued that Moscow should hold more talks, despite the West’s refusal to consider Russia’s main demands.

The talks “can’t go on indefinitely, but I would suggest to continue and expand them at this stage”, Mr Lavrov said, noting that Washington has offered to discuss limits for missile deployments in Europe, restrictions on military drills and other confidence- building measures.

Moscow wants that NATO will not allow guarantees Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to join as members. It also wants the alliance to halt weapons deployments to Ukraine and roll back its forces from Eastern Europe.

Mr Lavrov said possibilities for talks “are far from being exhausted”.

Mr Putin noted that the West could try to draw Russia into “endless talks” and questioned whether there is still a chance to reach agreement. Mr Lavrov replied that his ministry would not allow the US and its allies to stonewall Russia’s main requests.

The US reacted coolly.

“The path for diplomacy remains available if Russia chooses to engage constructively,” White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “However, we are clear-eyed about the prospects of that, given the steps Russia is taking on the ground in plain sight.”

US officials said the Russian military continued apparent attack preparations along Ukraine’s borders.

A US defense official said small numbers of Russian ground units have been moving out of larger assembly areas for several days, taking up positions closer to the Ukrainian border at what would be departure points if Putin launched an invasion.

Maxar Technologies, a commercial satellite imagery company that has been monitoring the Russian build-up, reported increased Russian military activity in Belarus, Crimea and western Russia, including the arrival of helicopters, ground-attack aircraft and fighter-bomber jets at forward locations.

The photos taken over a 48-hour period also show ground forces leaving their garrisons and combat units moving into convoy formation.

Still, Ukrainian security and defense council chief Oleksiy Danilov downplayed the threat of invasion but warned of the risk of “internal destabilization” by unspecified forces.

“Today we do not see that a large-scale offensive by the Russian Federation can take place either on (Feb.) 16th or the 17th,” he told reporters. “We are aware of the risks that exist in the territory of our country. But the situation is absolutely under control.”

As if to show defiance, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday would be a “day of national unity,” calling on the country to display the blue-and-yellow flag and sing the national anthem in the face of “hybrid threats”.

“It is not the first threat the strong Ukrainian people have faced,” Mr Zelenskyy said on Monday evening in a video address to the nation. “We’re calm. We’re strong. We’re together.”

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