(NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden provided a status update Tuesday on the ongoing situation with Russia at the Ukraine border, saying “an invasion remains distinctly possible.”
Biden continued to express skepticism about Russia’s intentions.
Hours after Russia announced that some units participating in military exercises near Ukraine’s borders would begin returning to their bases, Biden said the U.S. has “not yet verified” the claim.
Biden again warned that if Russia invades Ukraine, the U.S. “will rally the world to oppose its aggression.”
“We are not seeking direct conflict with Russia,” Biden said, and that war would be a “war of choice” and a “self-inflicted wound.”
The human cost for Ukraine and strategic cost for Russia would be “immense,” he said. “I do not believe you want a bloody, destructive war.”
Biden acknowledged the likelihood that U.S. and allied sanctions on Russia in retaliation for an invasion of Ukraine would have significant blowback on the American economy, including possible price hikes and disruption to the nation’s energy supply.
“Defending democracy and liberty is never without cost,” Biden said. “I will not pretend this will be painless.”
Russia has massed more than 130,000 troops near Ukraine, sparking the fears of an invasion amid soaring tensions with the West.
Russia denies it has any plans to invade Ukraine, despite placing troops on Ukraine’s borders to the north, south and east and launching massive military drills nearby.
The Russian military on Tuesday deployed long-range nuclear-capable bombers and fighter jets carrying state-of-the-art hypersonic missiles to its air base in Syria for massive naval drills in the region.
This comes as Ukrainian authorities said a cyberattack hit the websites of Ukrainian government agencies and major banks Tuesday. The attack is the latest of several hacking operations targeting Ukraine.
“If Russia attacks the United States or allies through asymmetric means, like disruptive cyberattacks against our companies or critical infrastructure, we’re also prepared to respond,” Biden said.
At least 10 Ukrainian websites stopped working due to DDOS attacks, including those of the Defense Ministry, Foreign Ministry, Culture Ministry and Ukraine’s two largest state banks.
The Ukrainian Information Ministry suggested Russia could be behind Tuesday’s incident without providing details. “It is possible that the aggressor resorted to tactics of petty mischief because his aggressive plans aren’t working overall,” the ministry’s statement said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow is ready for talks with the U.S. and NATO on limits for missile deployments and military transparency.
Speaking after talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Putin said the U.S. and NATO rejected Moscow’s demand to keep Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations out of NATO, halt weapons deployments near Russian borders and roll back alliance forces from Eastern Europe.
They agreed to discuss a range of security measures that Russia had previously proposed.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was traveling to the region today to meet with allied defense ministers while the U.S. moves all diplomats out of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, closing the embassy.
More U.S. troops are now deploying to Poland, as U.S. officials warn an invasion could begin “at any time” causing “widespread human suffering” in Eastern Europe.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has continued to downplay the Russian threat, at one point Monday joking that the invasion would happen “tomorrow.” U.S. intelligence says the invasion could happen as early as this week.
Biden administration officials have been warning that Russia could execute a “false flag” operation to justify an attack on Ukraine, fabricating a scenario in which Ukraine is the aggressor.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.