The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has fired back at claims made in the past 48 hours that a Russian invasion into his country is imminent. He cast doubt on Western intelligence claims of an impending invasion as he insisted he had not seen firm evidence yet. This comes as the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent James Landale pointed out that Ukraine social media was “more concerned with Eurovision than imminent invasion” this weekend.
Mr Landale told the BBC this morning: “One note of optimism: if you looked at social media in Ukraine yesterday, all the talk was not about invasion but their contender for the new Eurovision Song Contest.”
Summing up the latest developments, the BBC correspondent said: “US intelligence suggests that military action is likely – including the way Russia is configuring its forces and developing a pretext for invasion.
“With newer units arriving on the border now, the estimate of Russian troops has risen to 130,000.
“Russia has also moved thousands of troops in Belarus for what it says are military exercises – just a few hundred miles from Kiev.”
The warnings about imminent war have prompted US officials to evacuate their embassy staff, while more than a dozen countries have urged their citizens to leave Ukraine.
On Friday, the White House warned that an invasion could happen at any time, with aerial bombardment a likely option.
However, Ukrainian President Zelensky today downplayed the warnings and urged calm, saying: “Right now, the people’s biggest enemy is panic.”
The statement is the latest in a series of rebukes from Ukraine officials towards Western allies this weekend.
The ambassador said the comparison of diplomatic efforts with Russia to appeasement was not helpful.
He told the BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme: “It’s not the best time for us to offend our partners in the world, reminding them of this act which actually did not bring peace but the opposite – it brought war.”
The BBC’s Zhanna Bezpiatchuk reported that there are no major signs of panic in Kiev or other major Ukrainian cities.
However, Kiev’s mayoral office has drawn up an emergency evacuation plan for its three million residents in case of an invasion.
The Kremlin’s top foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov, has dismissed US warnings of an attack, saying “hysteria has reached its peak”.