Russia set to invade Ukraine at 1AM tomorrow with massive missile blitz and 200,000 troops, US intelligence claims
US intelligence said the most likely time for Putin’s order was 3am (1am UK time).
American spooks believe Kyiv’s military and government command and control centres still have a barrage of air strikes before tanks roll over the border.
Russian claimed today to be pulling back around 10,000 troops from its Western and Southern to barracks after military drills.
But around 130,000 remain on Ukraine’s eastern and southern borders with around 40,000 pro-Putin forces in Belarus to the north.
Another 30,000 pro-Russian separatists were facing Ukraine defenders in the captured Donbas enclave.
And preparations continued apace in Kyiv yesterday as anti-aircraft systems were seen moving into position along with columns of National Guard vehicles.
A military source said: “We cannot take anything that Russia says or does at face value. We have to prepare to defend ourselves.”
Senior sources said a Moscow attack would be “almost certainly from multiple points” over Ukraine’s southern, eastern and northern flanks.
It comes as Britain warned a Russian invasion of Ukraine is highly likely, could be imminent and could become the biggest threat to security in Europe since World War II.
But the Kremlin said the warnings of an early morning invasion on Wednesday are “baseless hysteria” designed to ramp up tensions in Europe.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin doesn’t want to see “information campaigns” further escalating tensions – and would prefer Russia and the West to calmly discuss their concerns.
Russia denies it is planning to invade, but said it could take unspecified “military-technical” action unless a range of demands are met.
Liz Truss said the UK would need to see a full-scale removal of Russian troops from the Ukraine border to believe Moscow has no plans for an invasion.
Asked about reports that some Russian troops are expected to return to bases, the Foreign Secretary told LBC: “I haven’t seen the reports that you’re referring to.
“Certainly, our latest intelligence suggests that an invasion is imminent, that it’s highly likely, and that we’ve seen 100,000 troops stationed around the border.
“Separately, the Russians have claimed that they have no plans for an invasion, but we will need to see a full-scale removal of troops to show that is true.”
Bob Seely, a Tory member of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said the Russian troop withdrawals should not be seen as “the end of the story”.
He said Moscow still had “many troops around Ukraine” and could “redeploy more at short notice”.
And Nato’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said “we have not seen any sign of de-escalation on the ground from the Russian side”.
He said: “Russia has amassed a fighting force in and around Ukraine unprecedented since the Cold War. Everything is now in place for a new attack.
“But Russia still has time to step back from the brink, stop preparing for war and start working for a peaceful solution.”
But Ukraine claimed its diplomatic efforts with Western allies have been successful.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters today: “We and our allies have managed to prevent Russia from any further escalation.
“It is already the middle of February, and you see that diplomacy is continuing to work.”
But Ms Truss said Britain and the West are still “preparing for the worst”.
A Western intelligence assessment revealed: “We would expect multiple sequenced attacks and not a single strike.”
It could mean a sudden thrust against Kyiv, using precision strikes.
Other key cities would be encircled by Putin’s tanks and troops while being pounded by planes and helicopter gunships.
The grave assessment came as Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky declared tomorrow a day of unity and urged his people to stand and sing the national anthem at 10am.
He said: “We do not know how to give up and we will not learn to do so. We believe in our own strength and will continue to build the future together. We are united by love for Ukraine.”