US President Joe Biden has virtually met with a group of eight Senate hawks from both the Democratic and Republican parties to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine amid American claims that Russia is preparing to invade the neighboring country. Moscow has rejected the accusations.
Seven of the senators who Biden spoke with on Wednesday recently returned from a trip to Ukraine, and they are again planning to visit the country.
"President Biden and the senators exchanged views on the best ways the United States can continue to work closely with our allies and partners in support of Ukraine, including both ongoing diplomacy to try to resolve the current crisis and deterrence measures," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
"President Biden commended the strong history of support for Ukraine from both sides of the aisle, and agreed to keep working closely with Congress as the Administration prepares to impose significant consequences in response to further Russian aggression against Ukraine,” Psaki added.
Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), attended the meeting. All of them traveled to Ukraine.
The White House said Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also participated in the meeting.
Psaki said a day earlier that the White House believes that Russia could invade its neighboring country “at any point,” despite Moscow’s repeated denials
“Our view is this is an extremely dangerous situation. We're now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine,” Psaki told reporters on Tuesday, adding later that her language was “more stark than we have been.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday visited Ukraine where he said that Russia could launch a new attack on Ukraine at "very short notice.”
Blinken promised, "relentless diplomatic efforts to prevent renewed aggression and to promote dialogue and peace". He said a Russian build-up of tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine's borders was taking place with "no provocation, no reason".
"We know that there are plans in place to increase that force even more on very short notice, and that gives President (Vladimir) Putin the capacity, also on very short notice, to take further aggressive action against Ukraine," he said.
The development comes as US intelligence agencies have accused Russia of preparing a false-flag operation to invade Ukraine.
US officials told the media on Friday that American intelligence findings point to Russia laying the groundwork for fabricating a pretext for invasion by blaming Ukraine for preparing an “imminent attack” against Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, a charge Moscow denies.
“The Russian military plans to begin these activities several weeks before a military invasion, which could begin between mid-January and mid-February,” one official told The Hill. “We saw this playbook in 2014 with Crimea.”