Claims of Ukrainian attacks on the breakaway area of Donbas region had been concocted by Russia to justify an eventual invasion, U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in Kyiv on February 17.

The Guardian quoted Truss as saying claims that Ukrainian forces had shelled a kindergarten were "a blatant attempt by the Russian government to fabricate pretexts for invasion." She said the maneuver was "straight out of the Kremlin playbook."

One day earlier, TASS had quoted Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying Ukraine would probably initiate military action against Donbas.

The BBC said Truss had made her comments at the press conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. In addition to increasing financial aid for Ukrainian defense, Truss said Britain was working with Ukraine and Poland "to intensify work on defense and security, sanctions, energy security and countering disinformation." The news broadcaster quoted her as saying failure to oppose Russian aggression would "embolden not only the Kremlin, but aggressors, authoritarians and autocrats everywhere."

Biden expects invasion 'within the next several days'

That same day, President Joe Biden said he believed Putin would carry out an invasion of Ukraine. “My sense is this will happen within the next several days,” Biden said.

He explained that this expectation was based on an observed increase in Russian troops near the border and the belief that the Russians were “engaged in a false-flag operation to have an excuse to go in.”

Biden also said he was waiting for delivery of a letter from Putin which had been given to the U.S. embassy in Moscow. The Guardian noted that the President had made those comments soon after Russia's expulsion of the U.S.

deputy ambassador.

Blinken tells UN what to expect from Russia

That same day, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned the United Nations of what the Biden Administration feared would be Putin's next moves. Speaking before the U.N. Security Council in New York, Blinken said that Russian aggression against Ukraine could be expected to go through the following four phases:

  • "First, Russia plans to manufacture a pretext for its attack. This could be a violent event that Russia will blame on Ukraine, or an outrageous accusation that Russia will level against the Ukrainian Government," Blinken said.
  • Next, Putin’s government could "theatrically convene emergency meetings to address the so-called crisis," Blinken said. Moscow would then claim it had a duty to protect Russian lives, he explained.
  • "Next, the attack is planned to begin. Russian missiles and bombs will drop across Ukraine. Communications will be jammed. Cyberattacks will shut down key Ukrainian institutions," the Secretary of State warned.
  • "After that, Russian tanks and soldiers will advance on key targets that have already been identified and mapped out in detailed plans," Blinken said. The invaders would seize the capital Kyiv and "target specific groups of Ukrainians."

The Secretary of State conceded that, on past occasions, intelligence information presented by America at the U.N.

had been inaccurate. He said the American government would be "relieved" if Putin "proved our predictions wrong."

A test of wills

CBS Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Margaret Brennan said the confrontation over Ukraine was a test of the resolve of America and its Western allies. Speaking on the "Late Show with Stephen Colbert," she recalled that Putin had grabbed Ukrainian territory in 2014 and America had responded with sanctions. "And it obviously didn't dissuade him from trying again."

It was still possible that an invasion might be avoided, Brennan said. "There's a sliver of a chance of diplomacy and the world is grabbing at it," she said.