Gunshots rang out as CNN gets first look at standoff in East Ukraine

(CNN)President Joe Biden plans to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, a person familiar with the matter said, as the US warns Russia could attack Ukraine at any moment.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Friday the two men would speak by phone, but didn’t say when.
Biden last spoke to Putin at the end of December. He is spending the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat.

    Earlier Friday, Sullivan warned a Russian assault on Ukraine could begin soon, including with bombs and missiles. He advised all Americans to depart the country for their own safety.

      “Any American in Ukraine should leave as soon as possible, and in any event in the next 24 to 48 hours,” Sullivan said. “We obviously cannot predict the future, we don’t know exactly what is going to happen. But the risk is now high enough and the threat is now immediate enough that this is what prudence demands.”

      “If a Russian attack on Ukraine proceeds, it is likely to begin with aerial bombings and missile attacks that could obviously kill civilians without regard to their nationality. A subsequent ground invasion would obviously involve the onslaught of a massive force,” he continued.
      The warning came just before a senior defense official told CNN that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had ordered 3,000 more soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division to deploy to Poland, joining the 1,700 already there. The soldiers are there to help Americans who may try to leave Ukraine.
      Despite that message, Sullivan added that it’s not clear if Russian President Vladimit Putin has decided to invade Ukraine.
      “I want to be crystal clear. A final decision has not been taken by President Putin, but we have a sufficient level of concern based on what we’re see on the ground and what our intelligence analysts have picked up that we’re sending this clear message and it remains a message that we have now been sending for some time. And it is an urgent message because we’re in an urgent situation,” Sullivan said.
      Later, he said there was a “very distinct possibility” that Russia would act militarily, but couldn’t pinpoint when or how.
      “I’m not going to get into intelligence information, but if you look at forces in both Belarus and in Russia on the other side of the Ukrainian border from the north and from the east, the Russians are in a position to be able to mount a major military action in Ukraine in day now,” he said.
      Earlier Friday US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US believes a Russian invasion of Ukraine could begin “at any time,” including during the ongoing Olympics in Beijing. He also said the US continues “to see very troubling signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border.”

      US planning to pull observers from Ukraine, send troops to Poland

      The fears over an invasion has led to the US planning to pull its impartial observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission in Ukraine as the security environment deteriorates, two sources familiar with the discussions said.
      The Biden administration is also discussing the possibility of further reducing the number of staff at the US Embassy in Kyiv and pulling other US government employees out of Ukraine amid new US intelligence suggesting that Russia could move to attack Ukraine prior to the end of the Beijing Olympics next week.
      The US has estimated that Russia has more than 100,000 troops near the Ukraine border, with thousands added just this week, according to an administration official.
      “We’re continuing to draw down our embassy,” Blinken said during a press conference on Friday. “We will continue that process. And we’ve also been very clear that any American citizens who remain in Ukraine should leave now.”
      OSCE observers’ “main tasks are to observe and report in an impartial and objective way on the situation in Ukraine; and to facilitate dialogue among all parties to the crisis,” according to their website. They also have been responsible for tracking ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine.
      The US last month ordered the departure of diplomats’ family members from the US Embassy in Kyiv and allowed nonessential personnel to leave on a voluntary basis.
      CNN has reached out to OSCE and State Department for comment.
      As the plans are made for the observers are made to leave Ukraine, the troops from the 82nd Airborne will be heading to neighboring Poland.
      The soldiers will fall under the command of Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, who was the commander of forces during the final evacuation and withdrawal from Afghanistan.
      Three hundred members of the 18th Airborne Corps have also arrived in Germany, the official said. They are under the command of Lt. Gen. Michael Kurilla, who’s slated to be the next head of US Central Command.
      This group of 5,000 troops will “reassure our NATO allies, deter any potential aggression against NATO’s eastern flank, train with host-nation forces, and contribute to a wide range of contingencies,” the senior defense official said.
      On Wednesday, CNN reported that the White House has approved a plan for members of the 82nd Airborne in Poland to help Americans who may try to leave Ukraine. The troops will begin setting up processing areas and temporary shelters.

      ‘The risk of conflict in Europe is real’

      Biden on Thursday urged Americans in Ukraine to leave the country immediately, warning that “things could go crazy quickly” in the region.
      “American citizens should leave now,” Biden said in an interview that was taped Thursday with NBC News’ Lester Holt.
      The President spoke with the leaders from Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, NATO, the European Commission, and the European Council in a call that lasted more than an hour Friday morning.
      Some leaders on the call later expressed concerns about the risk of invasion and urged the redoubling of diplomatic efforts with Russia.
      NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement that “the risk of conflict in Europe is real.”
      “Participants made clear that any further Russian aggression against Ukraine would come at a high cost, while reiterating that they were ready to continue dialogue with Russia,” he said.
      A Downing Street spokesperson said United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson had told allies on the call that he feared for the security of Europe due to the situation in Ukraine.
      “He impressed the need for NATO allies to make it absolutely clear that there will be a heavy package of economic sanctions ready to go, should Russia make the devastating and destructive decision to invade Ukraine,” the spokesperson said.
      Later Friday, a British diplomat told CNN that staff are not evacuating the British Embassy in Kyiv, but they are “temporarily removing all nonessential staff and dependents” and “a core team will remain to continue with essential duties.”
      The French government said in a statement that the leaders on the call with allies discussed Russian military exercises that recently began in Belarus, stating that the “leaders remain extremely vigilant in this regard.”
      French President Emmanuel Macron and Putin will speak on Saturday, according to Elysee Palace.
      Tweets from the German government about the meeting said “(a)llies are determined to impose swift sanctions on Russia, should there be further violations of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty” and that “(t)he goal is to prevent a war in Europe.”
      And the European Commission said the group had underscored its support for Ukraine and its final adoption of an emergency financial assistance package.

        European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen indicated that sanctions against Russia would concern the financial and energy sectors, as well as exports of high-tech products, according to a statement.
        This is a breaking story and will be updated.
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