KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday that warnings of an imminent Russian attack on his country were stoking “panic” and demanded to see firm proof of a planned invasion.
Zelensky’s comments came a day after US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warned that a Russian attack on its western neighbor could “begin at any time.”
Ukrainian leaders have been trying to talk down the prospects of an all-out war because of the damaging effect it was having on the country’s teetering economy and public morale.
“We understand all the risks. We understand that the risks are there,” Zelensky told reports.
“Right now, the people’s biggest enemy is panic in our country. And all this information is only provoking panic and not helping us,” he said.
“If you or anyone has any additional information about a 100-percent chance of an invasion, give it to us,” he added.
Weeks of tensions have seen Russia surround its western neighbor with more than 100,000 troops. Moscow is demanding binding security guarantees from the West that includes a pledge to roll NATO forces out of eastern Europe and to never expand into Ukraine.
Earlier Saturday the United States ordered all non-emergency Kyiv embassy staff to leave Ukraine because of the threat of invasion. The Pentagon late said that nearly all remaining US soldiers would leave Ukraine, as tensions soared.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “has ordered the temporary repositioning of the 160 members of the Florida National Guard,” who were in the country “advising and mentoring Ukrainian forces,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.