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Russia ‘ready to go now’: U.S. official warns Putin fully equipped to invade Ukraine

Russia had all of the necessary military capabilities Wednesday to launch a full-scale invasion into neighboring Ukraine, a senior U.S. defense official told NBC News.

“They are literally ready to go now,” said the official, who added that Russia has brought in “nearly 100 percent of all the forces we anticipated [Putin] would need” for a large-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Russia is “as ready as they can be” and has “about 80 percent in forward positions ready to go,” the official said. Their troops range from about five to 50 kilometers from the border. Russia also has more than 10 landing ships in the Black Sea with troops on board.

The Biden administration had warned earlier in the week that an invasion was imminent and could include the capital of Kyiv, U.S. officials seemed more confident Wednesday that such a scenario was about to become a reality.

The Ukrainian government, which had been previously cooler about the likelihood of war, prepared to declare a state of emergency. Government leaders urged all of their citizens to leave Russia immediately and started calling up military reservists.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba Dmytro issued a sobering message before the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday.

“The beginning of a large scale war in Ukraine will be the end of the world order as we know it,” he said.

The United States, Europe and other allies appeared to have lost hope in diplomatic efforts, canceling meetings with Russian officials and instead imposing the first salvo of sanctions on Moscow.

Feb. 23, 202202:29

And in an expected yet dramatic move, Russian began evacuating its embassy in Kyiv, according to the Associated Press, citing Russian state news agency Tass. By Wednesday afternoon, Russia’s flag was no longer flying over the building, the report said. Their departure came a day after Russia’s foreign ministry announced that it would evacuate all diplomatic missions in Ukraine to protect the lives of their personnel.

Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council asked the country’s parliament to impose a nationwide state of emergency for 30 days.

Ahead of the parliament’s vote on the state of emergency, at least five Ukrainian websites were hit by cyberattacks, according to Mykhailo Fedorov, minister of digital transformation. The websites for the Cabinet of Ministers and Ministry of Foreign Affairs were among those that were affected.

A bomb threat had also been called into Ukraine’s parliament, the National Police of Kyiv confirmed, but authorities found no explosives.

The government urged all Ukrainian citizens to leave Russia “immediately” and has started conscripting reservists aged 18 to 60.

Recent estimates have put the number of Ukrainians living in Russia at 1.9 million to 3 million.

“We are aware of the risks that exist from the Russian Federation, we clearly understand that our army is ready to fight back,” Ukraine’s top security official, Oleksiy Danilov, told reporters after asking lawmakers to approve the state of emergency.

Ukraine’s parliament also gave initial approval to a draft law that would allow citizens to carry firearms in self-defense. The law is yet to be finalized and approved.

The moves follow an escalation in the ongoing conflict in the country’s east, and a highly provocative set of actions from Moscow.

On Tuesday, Putin said that Russia’s recognition of two regions in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists stretched to large swaths of territory held by the Ukrainian military. The move further raised concerns that a broader armed conflict could break out as Russian troops move in, and came after Putin gained parliamentary approval to use his armed forces abroad.

“Our country is always open for direct and honest dialogue, for the search for diplomatic solutions to the most complex problems,” Putin said Wednesday in a video statement released to coincide with the annual Defender of the Fatherland Day.

“But I repeat: The interests of Russia, the security of our citizens are unconditional for us.”

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