President Biden said Tuesday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine “remains distinctly possible,” but held out hope that a diplomatic resolution could be reached.
“This is about more than just Russia and Ukraine — it’s about standing for what we believe in,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Biden said the U.S. has “not verified” Russian claims that it has started a troop drawdown near Ukraine, and U.S. analysts still believe there are 150,000 troops circling the border with Ukraine and Belarus.
While the U.S. has ruled out sending troops into Ukraine to defend against a Russian attack, the president warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that the U.S. would take action if Russian forces move into any of the NATO countries surrounding Ukraine, saying “an attack on NATO is an attack on all of us.”
Mr. Biden’s address at the White House came after Ukrainian officials said Tuesday that some of their national security and financial sites were under attack by hackers.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry tweeted that its website has likely been hit by a denial-of-service attack, noting that “an excessive number of requests per second was recorded.”
The ministry said that it’s working on restoring the website.
Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security confirmed reports of the cyberattacks, stating, “For the last few hours, Privatbank has been under a massive DDoS attack.” Users reported that they were having problems with payments, as well as with the app. Some had trouble logging in, while others could not access their balance or recent transactions, according to the center.
Privatbank said that depositors’ funds face “no threat” — it’s just the app that is affected, and financial transactions “are perform[ing] normally.” Oschadbank’s internet banking is down.
The center theorized, “It is possible that the aggressor resorted to the tactics of petty mischief, because by and large, his aggressive plans do not work.” However, it did not blame Putin for the attacks, and it is currently unclear at this time who is behind the attacks.
The last significant cyberattack on Ukraine took place in January, and Ukraine’s ambassador told CBS News’ Margaret Brennan that an invasion by Moscow was likely to be preceded by hacking.
“If Russia decides on a full invasion, then we know that we should expect increased cyberattacks before that,” Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova told CBS News.
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security on Monday held a call to warn law enforcement, military and U.S. infrastructure stakeholders to be prepared for potential Russian cyberattacks that correspond with a possible invasion of Ukraine.
— David Martin, Tucker Reals, Olivia Gazis, Eleanor Watson, Nicole Sganga, Kathryn Watson and Caroline Linton contributed to this report.
Biden’s top U.N. envoy says she continue to be “optimistic” for a “diplomatic way forward” on Ukraine
President Biden’s top U.N. envoy and cabinet member, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told CBS News that the U.S. will respond “very swiftly should the situation deteriorate” and that she has seen no evidence of Russians moving some troops away from the border.
Thomas-Greenfield spoke with CBS News about the Russia-Ukraine crisis, just as Ukraine has been attacked by hackers, and as President Biden spoke about the crisis. She said that Americans should get out of Ukraine “while there is still time.”
“I continue to be optimistic that we can find a diplomatic way forward. But I have to be honest, that we’re also preparing for something else,” she said.
Excerpts of the interview with CBS News’ Pamela Falk are here:
Thomas-Greenfield: We would welcome the Russians moving some of their troops across the border, away from the border, but we’ve seen no evidence of that, and they still have 100,000 plus troops on the border with Ukraine as we speak.
And those troops are threatening the independence and the sovereignty of this country. And so we want the Russians to accept a diplomatic way forward, a discussion at the negotiating table that will address their security concerns and address the security concerns of Europe and of Ukraine moving forward, and, until that happens, we will continue to lean in on diplomacy.
CBS News: Diplomatic efforts have been intense. Have you spoken with your counterparts? What can the U.N. do with Russia on the Security Council and a veto vote?
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: Russia is the president of the Council, they can’t block council actions. They can’t stop a Council from having meetings or discussions on the situation, as they couldn’t yesterday during a lunch that they hosted.
So we hope to continue to engage with them on this issue in the Council. They will certainly make every effort to distract us by putting other things on the agenda.
CBS News: And what does a diplomatic solution look like?
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: What it will entail is sitting down at the table talking through the issues that the Russians have, talking through the issues of Ukraine. It’s about also talking about the Minsk agreement and the Russians commitment or lack thereof to pull their troops out of Crimea. It’s about sitting down and finding a way forward that will address all of our security concerns and pull us away from the brink of this confrontation that the Russians are responsible for.
CBS News: Ambassador, Are you optimistic that there will be a diplomatic way forward?
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: I continue to be optimistic that we can find a diplomatic way forward. But I have to be honest, that we’re also preparing for something else. We’re unified in our efforts with our European colleagues to forcefully respond and swiftly respond to any Russian action, but at the same time, we will continue to lean in on the diplomacy.
And as you know, we’ve been very very clear in our pronouncements concerning American citizens and Ukraine and I just wanted to reiterate that while we’re speaking that American citizens should make every effort to leave Ukraine, while they have the opportunity to do so freely. You’ve heard the Secretary of State, you’ve heard that from the National Security Adviser, as well as from the President, but we are preparing to respond, as I noted, very swiftly should, such as should the situation deteriorate.
By Pamela Falk
U.S. seeing in Ukraine that Russian army uncoiling in preparation for an invasion
Not only is the U.S. not seeing any evidence Russia is pulling troops back from the Ukrainian front, there’s evidence of exactly the opposite. They are seeing Russian units move out of those assembly areas where they’ve been parked for weeks. They have been visible in satellite photos parked bumper-to-bumper near Ukraine. Now, they’re moving from the assembly areas toward the border area and dispersing into the field. And when they get into the field, they are putting up camouflage netting, so that they’re not so easily observed from space.
Despite what the Russian Defense Ministry and Putin say, what the U.S. is seeing on the ground is the Russian army uncoiling in preparation for an invasion of Ukraine.
Putin has given himself an array of options for an offensive against Ukraine, up to a full invasion, which would likely begin with cyber attacks, airstrikes, electronic warfare against the leadership of Ukraine in Kyiv. Bombing could coincide with Russian special forces in Kyiv seizing control of government buildings. The Russians would want to do this quickly and take control of the government within two days.
Further, he has amassed the forces for an invasion that could go beyond Ukraine. He would be able to go from Ukraine into neighboring Moldova, which is to the south, or north to Belarus, where there are already thousands of troops, and bring both countries back into the sphere of Russian influence, taking back a significant portion of the Russian empire lost in the Cold War.
This is in part why the U.S. and NATO have been discussing a response force of 20,000 or more troops to reinforce all of those countries — like Poland — that would then be on the front lines against Russia.
— David Martin and Eleanor Watson
Biden and Macron “affirmed their continued support for a diplomatic path forward” on Russia
President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke Tuesday, the White House said. They “reviewed their recent conversations with their Russian and Ukrainian counterparts, and affirmed their continued support for a diplomatic path forward,” the White House said in a readout of their call.
“They discussed ongoing diplomatic and deterrence efforts undertaken in close coordination with Allies and partners in response to Russia’s military buildup along Ukraine’s borders, including their readiness to impose severe consequences and to reinforce the defensive posture on NATO’s eastern flank,” the White House said.
By Kathryn Watson
Ukraine disinformation expert says Western response to Russian disinformation “effective”
The executive director of an organization that has been fighting Russian disinformation in Ukraine since 2014 said Tuesday that the West is successfully responding to it.
“I believe this is one of the first times when we saw an effective response from Washington and its European partners to this hybrid threat of Russia,” Ruslan Deynychenko, executive director of StopFake, a media organization that debunks Russian misinformation, told CBS News.
StopFake was founded during the Russian invasion of, and eventual annexation of, Crimea in 2014. It is run by volunteers and journalism students at the Mohyla School of Journalism in Kyiv.
“We wanted to show people, not just regular citizens, but governments, that Russian television, it’s not about informing people. It’s about using media as a powerful tool to influence people.”
Calling out false information, as well as learning how to interpret it, Deynychenko said, are two valuable ways to fight back against disinformation and propaganda. And he says that America should be on guard for similar information warfare in other countries.
“We know that other players, they try to use the same technique. But, very often, the disinformation and these hybrid operations, they are not so open and you cannot see them. It might be people chatting in the Telegram or WhatsApp groups, and they are not public, but someone can work with them, someone in these groups can persuade them to hate each other, to hate because of a different race, different language they use, different color of skin or different religion or whatever. And to persuade them to kill each other. And one day you can wake up in the morning and look through a window and see how people with machine guns are killing each other,” Deynychenko told CBS News.
He said it was important for people, countries, and companies to invest in real journalism and media literacy to counter the threat of disinformation campaigns.
“Remember that someone still pays for even for free content. And the free cheese might be only in the mousetrap,” Deynychenko said.
By Haley Ott
“An attack against one NATO country is an attack against all of us,” Biden says
The president then differentiated between an attack on the non-NATO nation of Ukraine and nearby NATO allies.
The U.S. will not hesitate to put its full military defense behind NATO nations, he said.
“An attack against one NATO country is an attack against all of us,” Mr. Biden said.
The president went on to discuss the potential increase in energy prices at home, but said his administration is doing what it can to alleviate those energy prices.
The U.S. is also prepared to respond if Russia commits cyber attacks on the U.S.
The path of diplomacy is still open to Russia, the president said.
The president ignored questions from reporters before exiting the room.
By Kathryn Watson
Biden says economic sanctions are “ready to go”
Mr. Biden said he’s confident freedom will prevail. If Russia proceeds, the U.S. and its allies are ready to impose “powerful” sanctions, he said.
The U.S. would pursue actions it didn’t pursue when Russia invaded Crimea, he said.
“These measures are ready to go as soon and if Russia moves,” he said, adding the U.S. will undermine Russia’ ability to compete.
If Russia further invades Ukraine, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline “will not happen,” he said.
The president explained how the U.S. has provided military equipment and intelligence to Ukraine.
By Kathryn Watson
Biden says they’ll pursue diplomacy but “an invasion remains distinctly possible”
President Biden offered some hope for diplomacy with Russia, while saying there is no indication Russian troops have withdrawn from a threatening position near Ukraine.
On Monday, Russians proposed to continue diplomacy, and Mr. Biden said he agreed. They will continue diplomatic efforts.
“As long as there is hope of diplomatic resolution … we will pursue it,” the president said.
Russians have said they are pulling troops from Ukraine’s border, but the U.S. has yet to see any proof of that.
“That would be good, but we have not yet verified that,” Mr. Biden said, adding U.S. analysts still believe Russian troops are in a threatening position.
“An invasion remains distinctly possible,” the president added.
By Kathryn Watson
Biden won’t announce new policy in Ukraine remarks
White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted Tuesday that the president won’t announce new policy related to Ukraine.
“@POTUS remarks will provide an update on events related to Ukraine, not announce new policy,” she wrote. “He will speak about the situation on the ground, the steps we have taken, the actions we are prepared to take, what’s at stake for the US and the world and how this may impact us at home.”
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says the Senate will release a bipartisan statement on Russia. There had been some intentions to pass a resolution condemning Russia.
By Kathryn Watson
Blinken tells Russian foreign minister the U.S. wants to see “verifiable, credible, meaningful de-escalation”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday as the tensions over a potential attack on Ukraine continue.
Blinken emphasized to Lavrov “the need to see verifiable, credible, meaningful de-escalation,” according to a readout of the call released by the State Department.
The call came after Russia’s Ministry of Defense announced that some of its forces in the Southern and Western military districts of Russia would redeploy to their permanent bases.
According to the readout, Lavrov told Blinken Russia would transmit within the coming days written responses to U.S. and NATO papers that proposed areas for discussion on European security.
By Eleanor Watson
Russia announcement of some troops returning to bases is “a smokescreen,” according to a source familiar with latest intel
The Russian Ministry of Defense said Tuesday that some of its troops would return to their permanent bases because they have completed their military exercises, but the U.S. and NATO allies are unconvinced this is a sign of a pullback by Russia.
One official said if Russia is redeploying units, the units are irrelevant to the current tensions. A separate source familiar with the latest intelligence said the announcement of any kind of withdrawal is just a “smokescreen.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a press conference Tuesday said it was “too early to say” whether Russian troop redeployments were a sign of de-escalation. “We have not seen any sign of de-escalation on the ground.”
— Eleanor Watson and Olivia Gazis
Russia absent from emergency meeting of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
The Russians on Tuesday failed to attend an emergency meeting of members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to explain the build-up of forces along Ukraine’s borders and in Belarus.
Ukrainian officials requested the meeting of the OSCE to discuss the ongoing tensions with Russia, and Michael Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the 57-member security body, said the request was welcomed by the U.S.
But “unfortunately and regrettably, though perhaps not surprisingly, the Russian Federation” was absent,” he said.
“The United States, along with many other participating states represented today, is gravely concerned about the implications of Russia’s highly unusual military activities, and the distinct possibility of a further invasion of Ukraine,” Carpenter said, according to a published statement. “We categorically reject the assertions that the concerns Ukraine and the international community have raised are a cause rather than consequence of Russia’s escalation. As Secretary Blinken said, this is simply gaslighting.”
Carpenter noted there are at least 90 Russian battalion tactical groups massed near Ukraine, which “cannot be denied or explained away on technicalities.”
“The world is watching, and the facts are plain,” the ambassador said.
In addition to the Russian forces on land, Carpenter said six amphibious ships have transited to the Black Sea, joining other amphibious forces “to participate in the exercises that effectively blocked most of Ukraine’s coastline.” The vessels can carry more than 3,000 troops combined, he added.
“In light of this concentration of amphibious forces, does Russia intend to conduct activity involving an amphibious landing? If so, why did Russia not notify an exercise?” Carpenter said. “Given that these amphibious forces transited from the Baltic and the Arctic, this can hardly be a so-called ‘snap exercise.'”
Carpenter further called for Russia to address questions of its military movements.
“If they chose not to, at a minimum, let this body take note of their silence,” he said.
By Melissa Quinn
Biden to deliver remarks on tensions between Ukraine and Russia
President Biden is set to deliver brief remarks Tuesday afternoon to provide an “update on Russia and Ukraine,” the White House announced, marking the first time the president will address the American people directly about the ongoing tensions.
In his remarks, the president “will reiterate that the United States remains open to high-level diplomacy in close coordination with our Allies, building on the multiple diplomatic off-ramps we and our Allies and partners have offered Russia in recent months,” according to the White House.
Mr. Biden has held several discussions this week with U.S. allies amid warnings of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday and French President Emmanuel Macron earlier Tuesday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also spoke by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday, a senior State Department official said.
By Melissa Quinn