Biden says unverified whether Russian troops have pulled back from Ukrainian border

"We have not yet verified the Russian military units are returning to their home bases," Biden said.

Updated: February 15, 2022 - 7:01pm

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President Joe Biden on Tuesday said a Russian invasion of Ukraine "remains distinctly possible," as it is unclear whether some Kremlin troops have returned to their bases, and more than 150,000 remain on the border.

"We have not yet verified the Russian military units are returning to their home bases," Biden said in a press conference. "Indeed our analysts indicate that they remain very much in a threatening position and the fact remains right now Russia has more than 150,000 troops encircling Ukraine and Belarus and along Ukraine's border."

Because of concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin may still order an incursion, Biden said he has "asked several times that all Americans in Ukraine leave now before it's too late to leave safely." Biden cited the potential invasion as why the State Department has relocated the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv to Lviv in western Ukraine. 

In an appeal to the Russian people, Biden stressed that the United States and NATO are not a threat. "We do not seek to destabilize Russia," he said.

Biden also mentioned the "deep ties of family history and culture" between Ukraine and Russia.

Notably, Putin argued in an essay last summer that Russians and Ukrainians are "one people" who are "stronger and more successful" together.

President Biden said that if Russia does invade Ukraine, "the human cost for Ukraine will be immense, and the strategic cost for Russia will also be immense."

The Kremlin will be met with "overwhelming international condemnation" and "powerful sanctions on export controls," if it invades Ukraine, Biden said.

Biden said the sanctions will be worse than those imposed after Russia invaded Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014. 

Russian Ambassador to Sweden Viktor Tatarintsev told the Aftonbladet newspaper on Saturday that Putin "doesn't give a s***" about sanctions."

He argued that the sanctions made Russia "more self-sufficient" and increase exports. 

"New sanctions are nothing positive but not as bad as the West makes it sound," the ambassador said. "The more the West pushes Russia, the stronger the Russian response will be."

Biden grimly said during his speech Tuesday that "the world will not forget that Russia chose needless death and destruction. Invading Ukraine will prove to be a self-inflicted wound."

The president also said that he will not send U.S. troops to Ukraine, but the U.S. will defend any NATO allies in the case of an attack.

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