Russia could be waiting for the ground to freeze to move heavy equipment into Ukraine, US President Biden told his Ukrainian counterpart Zelenskyy.

With the United States and the Western alliance refuse concessions on Russia's main demands, all eyes are now on Russia's next move.
With the United States and the Western alliance refuse concessions on Russia's main demands, all eyes are now on Russia's next move. (AP)

US President Joe Biden has warned Ukraine that there is a “distinct possibility” Russia could take military action against Ukraine in February.

Biden's comments to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a phone call amplified concerns that administration officials have been making for some time, the White House said on Thursday.

Biden spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart Zelenskyy to reiterate American and allied support, including recent deliveries of US military aid.

He also told Zelenskyy he was “exploring additional macroeconomic support to help Ukraine’s economy" as it comes under pressure with Russia's military buildup, according to the White House.

Biden warned Zelenskyy that the US believed there was a high degree of likelihood that Russia could invade when the ground freezes and Russian forces could attack Ukrainian territory from north of Kiev.

Military experts have said Russia may be waiting for optimal ground conditions to move heavy equipment into Kiev as part of any invasion. Eight years ago, Russia invaded Crimea in late February.

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'Little ground for optimism'

The Kremlin likewise sounded a grim note, saying it saw “little ground for optimism” in resolving the crisis after the US this week again rejected Russia’s main demands.

Russian officials said dialogue was still possible to end the crisis, but Biden again warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin will give the go-ahead for a further invasion of Ukrainian territory in the not-so-distant future.

All eyes are now on Putin, who will decide how Russia will respond amid fears that Europe could again be plunged into war.

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Diplomacy sputters

Tensions have soared in recent weeks, as the United States and its NATO allies expressed concern that a buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine signalled that Moscow planned to invade its ex-Soviet neighbour.

Russia denies having any such designs and has laid out a series of demands it says will improve security in Europe. But the US and the Western alliance have rejected any concessions on Moscow's main points.

US and allies refused to permanently ban Ukraine from joining NATO, and asserted that deployments of troops and military equipment in Eastern Europe are nonnegotiable.

While diplomacy sputters on, so do manoeuvres that have escalated tensions. Russia has launched a series of military drills involving motorised infantry and artillery units in its territories and Belarus.

Beyond concerns about a possible Russian offensive in Ukraine, there also has been speculation that Moscow's response could include military deployments to the Western Hemisphere.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies