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Biden says Russian invasion of Ukraine 'is still very much a possibility'

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Biden says Russian invasion of Ukraine 'is still very much a possibility'
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks while providing an update on Russia and Ukraine in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, where he said an invasion by Russia "remains distinctly possible." Photo by Joshua Roberts/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 15 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden said Tuesday afternoon, the United States is "ready to respond decisively to a Russian attack on Ukraine, which is still very much a possibility."

Biden made the remarks at the White House while updating the Ukraine situation, later reiterating that "an invasion (by Russia) remains distinctly possible," although he still hopes diplomatic efforts will prevail.

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Russia has been steadily building up its military presence near its border with Ukraine and has been engaging in war exercises in Belarus, which is an ally to Moscow. It has also dramatically increased its naval presence in the Black Sea.

"From the beginning of this crisis, I have been clear and consistent, the United States is prepared no matter what happens. We are ready with diplomacy, to engage in diplomacy with Russia," said Biden.

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The commander in chief also said that, while sanctions are on the table, direct American military intervention in Ukraine is not on the table at this point.

"While I will not send American servicemen to fight in Ukraine, we have supplied the Ukrainian military with equipment to help them defend themselves," Biden said.

"We have provided training, and advice, and intelligence for the same purpose. Make no mistake, the United States will defend every inch of NATO territory with the full force of American power. An attack against one NATO country is an attack against all of us. The United States' commitment to Article 5 is sacrosanct."

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Biden also touched on his recent phone call with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

"President Putin and I agreed that our teams should continue to engage towards this end, along with our European allies and partners," said Biden.

"We should give diplomacy every chance to succeed. I believe there are real ways to address our respective security concerns."

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This comes as Moscow's defense ministry said earlier Tuesday that some Russian troops that have been participating in war exercises would return to their bases. It did not specify how many troops would return.

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Biden remained dubious over the claims.

"We have not yet verified that Russian military units are returning to their home bases. Indeed, our analysts indicate that they remain very much in a threatening position," he said.

The president once again urged any Americans in Ukraine to leave before it's too late to leave safely.

The U.S. State Department recently issued a heightened "do not travel" advisory for Ukraine, citing "increased threats of Russian military action" and urging Americans in the country to leave.

He briefly acknowledged that a potential conflict could have economic repercussions at home, specifically pointing to the possibility of rising U.S. energy prices.

Biden also had a message for Russian citizens.

"We're not targeting the people of Russia. We do not seek to destabilize Russia. To the citizens of Russia, you are not our enemy and I do not believe you want a bloody, destructive war against Ukraine," he said.

"If Russia proceeds, we will rally the world to oppose its aggression. The United States and our allies and partners around the world are ready to impose powerful sanctions on export controls, including actions we did not pursue when Russia invaded Crimea in eastern Ukraine in 2014."

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday that he'd been told a Russian invasion could be launched as soon as Wednesday. He later clarified the statement, saying he was speaking ironically.

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