Russia could invade Ukraine “at any time”.
Or perhaps its military posture on the border is “already doing enough damage.”
While the timing of any potential escalation in tensions between the Kremlin and Ukraine remains a mystery, the world is already reacting.
Flights have been cancelled, embassies evacuated and travelers told to return home as the situation could quickly deteriorate.
From Wednesday to none at all, here’s when experts think Russia could invade Ukraine.
United States: It could happen “any day”
Russia has more than 100,000 troops massed near Ukraine, and Washington – while keeping open diplomatic avenues that have so far failed to quell the crisis – has repeatedly declared an invasion was imminent.
Moscow has denied any such plans and accused the West of “hysteria”.
Speaking local time on Sunday, US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said an invasion could begin “any day.”
“We can’t predict the day perfectly, but we’ve been saying for a while now that we’re in the window,” Sullivan told CNN.
He said Washington would continue to share what it had learned with the world in order to deprive Moscow of the possibility of staging a surprise “false flag” operation that could be used as a pretext for an attack.
US officials said they could not confirm reports that US intelligence indicated Russia planned to invade on Wednesday.
The United States too: it could happen during the Olympics
There has been speculation that any invasion will only occur after the conclusion of the Beijing Winter Olympics – which are due to end on February 20 – to avoid a conflict with Russia’s ally, the China.
But US Secretary of State Antony Blinken didn’t mince words at a press conference in Melbourne last week: the Olympics won’t stop Russia from invading.
“We are in a window where an invasion could start at any time and, to be clear, that includes during the Olympics.”
Great Britain: “Russia could plan an invasion at any time”
Like the United States, Britain believes that the crisis on the Ukrainian border “has reached a critical stage”.
“All the information we have suggests that Russia could be planning an invasion of Ukraine at any time,” a government spokesman said.
Accordingly, the nation is working on a package of military support and economic aid to Ukraine, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson will visit Europe later this week.
Britain has supplied anti-tank weapons and trained personnel to Ukraine, although those troops were ordered to leave this weekend.
“There is still a window of opportunity for de-escalation and diplomacy, and the prime minister will continue to work tirelessly alongside our allies to bring Russia back down,” the spokesperson said.
France: “We see no indication in what President Putin is saying”
France are not as confident as their international counterparts.
French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday local time to discuss what the Kremlin called “provocative speculation” around an allegedly planned Russian invasion.
“We don’t see any indication in what President Putin says he’s going to go on the offensive,” a French presidential official told reporters after Mr. Macron and Mr. Putin spoke on the phone for nearly 90 minutes.
“We are nevertheless extremely vigilant and attentive to the Russian (military) posture in order to avoid the worst.”
What did Russia have to say about all this?
Russia has repeatedly denied any plans to act against Ukraine.
In a briefing with reporters over the weekend, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said talks between Moscow and the United States had taken place amid “hysteria” in the West in the about an imminent Russian invasion.
“[Mr Biden] predictably mentioned possible harsh anti-Russian sanctions in the context of the tense situation around Ukraine,” he said.
“But that wasn’t the subject of his long enough conversation with the Russian leader,” Ushakov said, pointing to a series of security demands Russia made to the West at the end of the war. last year, including a veto on Ukraine’s accession to NATO.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly downplayed warnings from the West, questioning increasingly strident statements by US officials in recent days that Russia may be planning to invade as early as midweek.
“We all understand the risks, we understand there are risks,” he said on a Saturday broadcast.
But as Mr. Zelenskyy urged against the panic he said could undermine Ukraine’s economy, he and his civilian and military leaders were preparing defenses, soliciting and receiving a flow of arms from the United States and others. NATO members.
Is it possible that Russia won’t invade at all?
According to some experts, yes.
Noting that a “full-scale war in Ukraine doesn’t quite match the way the Kremlin has used hard power in its geopolitical games,” Dr. Harun Yilmaz – an academic researcher who writes extensively on Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia – told Al Jazeera that Russian policymakers “know well that they do not have the means to sustain a full-scale war”.
It’s a sentiment shared by former Foreign Secretary Alexander Downer, who, writing for the Australian Financial Review last month, highlighted the financial sanctions that would be imposed by the United States and its NATO allies. in case of invasion.
“Russia will keep a large number of troops on the Ukrainian border and sometimes cause problems in Ukraine, including through cyberattacks,” he wrote.
“But Russian economics and politics tell me that President Putin would be reckless and reckless if he were to invade Ukraine.”