Biden convening National Security Council to weigh options in Ukraine

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Feb. 19 (UPI) — President Joe Biden will convene a meeting of the National Security Council on Sunday to discuss the situation in Ukraine, the White House announced Saturday.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that a team on the ground in Ukraine reports “that Russia could launch an attack against Ukraine at any time.” The National Security Council consists of cabinet officials and senior national security advisors.

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Biden also received an update on Vice President Kamala Harris’ meetings at the Munich Security Conference Saturday afternoon, the media release stated.

During a prepared speech at the conference, Harris said that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine posed a direct threat “to the foundation of European security,” calling the United States’ commitment to the NATO alliance “sacrosanct.”

“Let me be clear, I can say with absolute certainty if Russia further invades Ukraine the United States, together with our allies and partners, will impose significant, and unprecedented economic costs,” Harris said. “The imposition of these sweeping and coordinated measures will inflict great damage on those who must be held accountable.”

Harris met with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday, assuring him that the United States “will impose swift and severe economic sanctions” if Russia “further invades” his country. Zelensky, speaking at the conference, had again called for the sanctions against Russia from its allies and criticized the strategy from Western countries in handling the geopolitical crisis.

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U.S. officials currently estimate that Russia has up to 190,000 troops stationed along the Ukrainian border and in the country’s eastern regions, The New York Times reported. Claims from Russian officials that they were reducing the number of troops earlier this week were refuted by NATO and the United States, who counter that Russia appears to be doing the opposite.

The White House believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to launch an attack on Ukraine in the coming days, targeting its capital city of Kyiv. Leaders in Russian-backed regions of Ukraine called on its military units to mobilize on Saturday.

Biden’s announcement of a National Security Council meeting came just a few hours after a tweet from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who wrote that he’d had an “urgent conversation” with French President Emmanuel Macron.

“Informed about the aggravation on the frontline, our losses, the shelling of politicians & international journalists. Discussed the need and possible ways of immediate de-escalation & political-diplomatic settlement,” the tweet stated.