Lloyd Austin Says Russia Is Moving To Conduct An Attack On Ukraine. Earlier, Vice President Harris Vowed ‘swift, Severe And United’ Response If There Was An Invasion.

Lloyd Austin Says Russia Is Moving To Conduct An Attack On Ukraine. Earlier, Vice President Harris Vowed ‘swift, Severe And United’ Response If There Was An Invasion.

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1 hr 40 min agoUS Defense Secretary says it’s apparent Russia has made a decision and is moving into position to conduct an attackFrom CNN’s Ross Levitt and Karen Smith

From left: US Secretary for Defense Lloyd J. Austin, Estonia’s Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet, Latvia’s Minister of Defense Artis Pabriks, and Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis, pose for photographers during a meeting at the Defense Ministry in Vilnius, Lithuania, on February 19. (Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)Speaking in Vilnius, Lithuania, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said it was apparent that Russia had made a decision and was moving into the right positions to conduct an attack on Ukraine. 

“They’re uncoiling and now poised to strike,” Austin said.

If you look at the stance he is in today, it’s apparent [Putin] has made a decision and they are moving into the right positions to conduct an attack.” 

Austin reiterated earlier comments from US President Joe Biden that Russian President Vladimir Putin had decided to invade after weeks of the US saying he hadn’t made a decision.

Austin and others in the US continue to say diplomacy is still possible, and he added, “I believe we should try until the very last minute, until it’s not possible.”

Some background: On Friday, President Biden said he believed Russian forces intended to attack Ukraine “in the coming week” or sooner, and that an attack will target the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

“As of this moment, I am convinced he’s made the decision,” Biden said during remarks at the White House.

1 hr 59 min agoSeparatist leaders pre-recorded their video appeals, metadata shows From CNN’s Gianluca Mezzofiore in London

The leader of the breakaway Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, Denis Pushilin, ordered a general mobilization in a video message posted on Friday. (Denis Pushili via Telegram)Leaders of the self-declared republics in eastern Ukraine posted videos online on Friday announcing that they were organizing the mass evacuation of civilians to Russia.

But a CNN analysis of the videos’ metadata indicates the footage was recorded days earlier.

Denis Pushilin, leader of the breakaway Donetsk state in eastern Ukraine, said on his video appeal that “today, Feb. 18, a mass centralized evacuation of the population to the Russian Federation has been organized.” Shortly afterwards, Leonid Pasechnik, the most senior official in the Luhansk People’s Republic, announced a similar move.

In his video, Pushilin also claimed that a large-scale offensive by Ukrainian forces against the Donetsk People’s Republic was imminent, a claim the Ukrainian authorities have strenuously denied.

CNN downloaded the videos from Telegram and checked their metadata.

Both video files have “Wednesday 16” as their creation date, meaning that they were recorded at least two days before they were posted on Telegram.

The platform preserves metadata for the videos posted there and it cannot be changed.

CNN is reaching out to the self-declared republics for an explanation.

1 hr 5 min agoPutin launches Russia’s ballistic and cruise missile exercisesFrom CNN’s Sarah Dean, Nathan Hodge, Uliana Pavlova and Olga Pavlova in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko watch military drills via videoconference in Moscow, on February 19. (Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool/AP)Russian President Vladimir Putin observed nuclear drills from his situation center in the Kremlin together with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, the Russian president’s press office said Saturday. 

Russia’s state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported that Putin launched the planned ballistic and cruise missile exercises shortly before 5.30 a.m. ET on Saturday.

Over the past week, the Russian president has focused international attention onto a series of military drills that have tested Russia’s conventional military power. 

Putin said Friday that “an active phase exercise [of military drills] is underway.”

“Tomorrow we will even take part together in one of the serious events in this complex of military cooperation,” Putin added, speaking at a televised meeting with Lukashenko in Moscow.

According to a news release from Putin’s press office:

Russia’s Aerospace Forces successfully launched Kinzhal hypersonic missiles.Ships and submarines of the Northern and Black Sea Fleets launched Kalibr cruise missiles and Zirkon hypersonic missiles at sea and ground targets.Russian forces carried out a launch of the Iskander land-based cruise missile from the Kapustin Yar test site in Russia’s southern Astrakhan region.Russia launched a Yars intercontinental ballistic missile from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia toward the Kura test site on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s far east.Tu-95m strategic bombers fired air-launched cruise missiles to hit targets at the Pemboi and Kura ranges.The strategic nuclear submarine Karelia of Russia’s Northern Fleet launched a Sineva ballistic missile at the Kura range from the waters of the northern Barents Sea.”The exercises of the strategic deterrence forces were planned earlier, during which the readiness of the military command and control bodies, launch combat crews, crews of warships and strategic missile carriers to perform the assigned tasks, as well as the reliability of the weapons of strategic nuclear and non-nuclear forces, was checked,” the statement read.

“The tasks envisaged during the exercise of the strategic deterrence forces were completed in full, all missiles hit the designated targets, confirming the specified characteristics,” it added.

This post has been updated.

2 hr 37 min agoUS Vice President Harris vows “swift, severe and united” response if Russia invades UkraineFrom CNN’s Maegan Vazquez and Kate Sullivan

US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during the Munich Security Conference, on February 19, in Germany. (Andrew Harnik/Pool/AP)US Vice President Kamala Harris on Saturday vowed there would be a “swift, severe and united” response if Russia invades Ukraine in a highly anticipated speech at the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

Harris laid out retaliatory measures in a manner befitting her past career as a prosecutor, promising “significant and unprecedented” economic costs.

The Vice President took center stage in front of a large, international audience as she delivered the keynote address at the security conference.

The remarks came at a high-stakes moment after the United States’ repeated warnings on Friday of efforts by Russia to mount an invasion.

CNN’s International Diplomatic Editor, Nic Robertson, said it was “very clear why President Biden sent [Harris] there,” and that she had delivered a message “of unity.”

The Vice President of the United States carries such a strong message to allies and partners. And this is a moment where the United States wa

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Lloyd Austin says Russia is moving to conduct an attack on Ukraine. Earlier, Vice President Harris vowed ‘swift, severe and united’ response if there was an invasion.

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