President VLADIMIR Putin Orders US Officials To Leave Russia Immediately (Photos,Video)
VLADIMIR Putin has ordered US officials to leave Russia immediately amid fears he plans to order an invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin has massed 100,000 troops, with tanks, artillery and ballistic missiles, within striking distance of its neighbour’s borders.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said US embassy staff who have been in Moscow for more than three years were being ordered to fly home by January 31.
Fresh footage shows the Russian tanks on manoeuvres in a region bordering Ukraine.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on Wednesday Putin could quickly order an invasion of Ukraine if he had a pretext for doing.
He said America was "deeply concerned by evidence that Russia has made plans for significant aggressive moves against Ukraine”.
"We don't know whether President Putin has made the decision to invade. We do know he's putting in place the capacity to do so in short order," he said.
Russia has also "intensified disinformation to paint Ukraine as the aggressor" and increased anti-Ukrainian propaganda by more than tenfold to levels not seen since its 2014 invasion of the country.
"The idea that Ukraine represents a threat to Russia would be a bad joke if things weren't so serious," he said.
He said Putin may "claim provocation for something that they were planning to do all along.”
Kiev’s intelligence chief recently warned Russia could invade by the end of January with a massive assault across ten fronts.
Ukrainian commander Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Kiev's defence intelligence agency, laid out the scale of Vladimir Putin's attack involving some 100,000 soldiers.
Brigadier General Budanov explained the invasion would involve airstrikes and artillery bombardments, reports The Military Times.
That would be followed by an attack from the air involving up to 3,500 paratroopers and special forces.
It would then be followed by a mass assault across the border, amphibious landings in Odessa and Mariupol, and a smaller attack from neighbouring Belarus.
Russia however has always denied any aggressive intentions towards Ukraine - branding reports as "hysteria". Putin said Wednesday his government is seeking guarantees from the West that it not move troops or weapons systems "in close vicinity to the Russian territory”.