The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Russian forces stay in Belarus; Biden convenes NSC about invasion threat

After years of peace, villagers in Ukraine's Donbas region are enduring a sharp increase in shelling from separatists and fear a Russian invasion could be next. (Video: Whitney Leaming, Erin Patrick O'Connor, Salwan Georges/The Washington Post, Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)
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President Biden met with the National Security Council Sunday to discuss the threat of war in Ukraine as officials warn that Moscow is stepping up its disinformation campaign in a bid to create a pretext for a military attack that the president has warned could come “in the coming days.”

The NSC meeting lasted a little over two hours, with Vice President Harris calling in from Air Force Two on her way back to Washington from Munich, an administration official said.

Meanwhile, Belarus’s defense minister extended military exercises with Russian forces that were otherwise set to end Sunday, and he announced a joint task force to “fight back if necessary.”

The announcement that Russian forces would not return to base as planned contradicted the country’s previous assertion that not a single Russian troop or piece of equipment would remain after the drill. Before the exercise began 10 days ago, Western military analysts warned that it could be cover for an attack force to invade Ukraine from the north and potentially encircle the capital Kyiv.

Here’s what to know

  • French President Emmanuel Macron and Putin held a call Sunday that the European leader’s office said yielded a potential development toward diplomacy. The two agreed to work on facilitating a contact group meeting in the next few hours to work toward a cease-fire agreement, Macron’s office said. But the Kremlin’s readout of their discussion didn’t mention a possible meeting. Macron later talked about Ukraine with Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
  • Johnson told the BBC Sunday that the United Kingdom and the United States could take steps to prevent Russian companies from trading in British pounds and U.S. dollars if Putin invades Ukraine.
  • Russian and Belarusian leaders said they will “continue checking” joint force readiness as military exercises are extended. Belarus Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin cited the “increase in military activity” near the border and “the aggravation of the situation” in eastern Ukraine.