US President Joe Biden issued the chilling warning to his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and claimed Russian warplanes were already carrying short reconnaissance missions over his country’s airspace.
It comes as a state of emergency was declared in Ukraine amid fears of an imminent Russian invasion.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden’s administration has informed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Russia is preparing a full-scale invasion of his country within 48 hours.
“The President of Ukraine has been warned Russia will highly likely begin an invasion within 48 hours based on US intelligence,” a US official told Newsweek.
They went on: “Reporting from aircraft observers indicates Russia violated Ukrainian airspace earlier today, flying possible reconnaissance aircraft for a short period over Ukraine.”
A source close to President Zelenskyy confirmed they had received the warning, but said this was the third of its kind received by Kyiv in the past month.
“It’s possible for sure,” they said. “Putin can’t keep so many troops in the field much longer.”
The Pentagon’s report claims Russia is planning a full-on assault on its neighbour, including airstrikes, cruise missiles, and a ground invasion.
A US military official said Putin is planning a two-pronged invasion, including “peacekeeping” forces already moved into the eastern Donbas region on Monday, as well as a second onslaught from Belarus to the north, targeting the capital Kyiv.
Friday night’s predicted operation would begin with a cyber attack, followed by a ground invasion.
However, officials have claimed Russia’s plans could still change based on daily developments.
A senior defence official told reporters on Wednesday Putin has amassed “near 100%” of the troops he would need to launch an incursion into Ukraine, while 80% are in “ready position” for such an order.
On Wednesday, the websites for Ukraine’s Defence Ministry, Foreign Ministry, and other key government institutions suddenly went offline in an apparent large-scale cyber attack blamed on Moscow.
It comes as the Home Secretary Priti Patel warned Russia could launch a massive cyber attack on Britain at any time.
She said “red lights” have been flashing over a Putin-ordered attack for some time, but new UK sanctions on Kremlin-linked individuals could drastically increase that risk.
Russia will highly likely begin an invasion within 48 hours
“Look at Salisbury, look at the cyber attacks,” she said, adding: “Just look at attempts to interfere in our democracy.”
Moscow continues to deny engaging in any hostile cyber activity, and has accused the West of ramping up war rhetoric.
On Monday, Putin granted recognition to two breakaway Ukrainian provinces, in a controversial move he insisted was to protect them from “Ukrainian aggression”.
No other countries have recognised the two provinces, and the move is seen as part of a plot to justify a full invasion of the country.
On Friday, President Biden said he was “convinced” Putin has already decided to launch a further invasion of Ukraine, including an assault on Kyiv, although he claimed a diplomatic solution was always a “possibility”.
However, after Putin’s fiery rhetoric on Monday, including declaring that Ukraine has “always been Russia,” meetings scheduled for Thursday between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are now off the table.
In a rambling speech on Russian TV, Putin blamed NATO for the current crisis and claimed Kyiv was creating “weapons of mass destruction”.
He also painted modern Ukraine as being historically Russian and said the country had been used since the collapse of the Soviet Union by the West to contain Russia.
“We demand that those who seized power in Ukraine immediately stop hostilities, otherwise, the responsibility for the continuing bloodshed will rest entirely with the Ukrainian regime,” he thundered.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has urged its people to take up arms, with one of its MPs warning Russian soldiers they will “die like dogs” if they invade.
Ukraine has now declared a 30-day state of emergency, with fears the country’s second city Kharkiv is next in Putin’s sights.
The country’s National Security and Defence Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said the measure would enable martial law and night-time curfews, beginning “instantly” if Russia invades further.
Other restrictions could include checkpoints, road closures, airport shutdowns, and confiscation of property if the security situation deteriorates more.
One of Ukraine’s MPs nevertheless issued a chilling warning to Russian troops, saying: “Welcome to hell… you will die here.”