Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's adviser walked back on Monday night the president's statement that "February 16 will be the day of the attack" on Ukraine by Russia.
Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak said that Zelensky was not being literal when he said that the attack would be on Wednesday, according to CNN, but was reportedly being ironic.
According to Zelensky's spokesperson Sergii Nykyforov, his statement was referring to dates already reported on by the press elsewhere.
"The president referred to a date that was spread by the media," Nykyforov told NBC News.Zelensky, who had a career as a comedian before becoming president, wrote that the Ukrainian government was "told" that Wednesday would be the day of the attack as he announced a new decree to establish a national day of unity, increase funding of military service personnel, accelerate the development of defenses and create an information system to apprise citizens of the security situation. According to the document, the decree would serve "to strengthen the consolidation of Ukrainian society, strengthen its resilience in the face of growing hybrid threats, information and propaganda, [and] moral and psychological pressure on the public consciousness."Several Western news organizations reported last week that Washington believed that was the date when Russian forces would be ready if Putin gives the order to invade.
Despite this, Ukrainian Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov has stated that Kyiv does not see a risk of a full-scale Russian invasion in the coming days, according to RBC Ukraine. He further warned of inflating reports on an imminent invasion, as it could cause instability within the country.
Zelensky has commented on reports of a February 16 invasion before. On Saturday, February 12, the Ukrainian president said that "It can happen any day, as I said before," but said that despite the information of an impending Russian invasion on the 16th, "we have different information, and now, the best friend for our enemies is panic in our country. And all of this only provokes panic and does not help us.
"If you or anyone else has any additional information about a 100% invasion, give us this information," he said further, according to reports in the Ukrainian news outlet The New Voice of Ukraine. Nonetheless, he made clear that US reports about a possible invasion are still being taken into account.
US OFFICIALS have been warning since Friday that an attack could happen any day.
"We have an amazing army," Zelensky wrote in the Facebook post. "Our guys have unique combat experience and modern weapons. It is already many times stronger than the army eight years ago."From March 1, financial support for service personnel in the armed forces would increase by 30%, and 20% to service people in the National Guard and Border Guard. In addition to the acceleration of a functioning territorial defense network, resources and provisions would be provided to prepare citizens for national resistance. The decree called for a national information system that would update citizens on the security situation. Zelensky announced with the decree that the supposed day of invasion would also become a national day of unity.
"The decree has already been signed," continued the statement on Facebook. "This afternoon we will hang national flags, put on blue-yellow ribbons and show the world our unity." At 10:00 the national anthem would be performed.In his video address, the president urged state officials, politicians and business leaders who had left the country to return to show solidarity amid fears of the impending invasion.
"It is your direct duty in such a situation to be with us, with the Ukrainian people. I suggest that you return to your homeland within 24 hours and stand shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian army, our diplomacy, and our people," Zelensky said in a video address.Ukrainian media reported that some lawmakers and top businessmen had fled the country last weekend after the United States, Britain and other Western countries advised their citizens to urgently leave Ukraine.On Monday night, Israeli airline El Al announced that it would be assisting the evacuation of US citizens from the beleaguered country. The announcement came as Americans have found it increasingly difficult to find flights home, as American airlines have already lowered their activity due to rising tensions.
The US announced that it would be moving its embassy to Ukraine from Kyiv to Lviv. On Monday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that the move is based on what Washington is "seeing on the ground with our own eyes" with regard to the Russian military buildup on Ukraine's border.
"We are basing our assessment on what we are seeing on the ground with our own eyes, which is a continued and unprovoked Russian buildup on the border of Ukraine, and no accompanying evidence of de-escalation," Price told reporters at a briefing.Ariella Marsden contributed to this report.