update(1:35pmET)The urgent Biden-Putin phone call which kicked off just after 11:00eastern has concluded after more than an hour. The US president again warned the Russian leader than any invasion of Ukraine would result in “swift and severe costs” to Russia.

Biden reportedly stressed that the US stands ready to for “other scenarios” – a reference to some level of a military response in defense of Washington’s ally Ukraine. A senior admin official told Fox News the call was “professional and substantive.” However it was added, “There was no fundamental change in the dynamic that has been unfolding now for several weeks.”

“But Putin and Biden agreed that their teams will stay engaged in the days ahead,” a US official told Bloomberg. Later in the day the State Department revealed that in a call between Secretary of State Blinken and Russian FM Lavrov that there was no signal from Moscow that it intends to de-escalate.

According to the Pentagon Fox correspondent, US officials believe a Russian offensive into Ukraine is coming early next week, or Wednesday

U.S. officials told Fox News reporter Lucas Tomlinson that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could come as soon as Wednesday. Tomlinson confirmed the report with multiple sources.

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv has ordered its staff to leave, going down to the “bare minimum.”

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The Pentagon has confirmed Saturday it has ordered soldiers who were in Ukraine training national forces out of the country, amid US fears that a Russian military offensive is imminent. It appears the US is moving its military assets out of the way, not wanting them to be targets of any potential invasion.

Specifically US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin identified that the some 160 Florida National Guard soldiers who had been in the country since November would be moved “elsewhere in Europe”.

“They are departing Ukraine and will reposition elsewhere in Europe. The Secretary made this decision out of an abundance of caution — with the safety and security of our personnel foremost in mind — and informed by the State Department’s guidance on U.S. personnel in Ukraine,” a Pentagon press statement said.

“This repositioning does not signify a change in our determination to support Ukraine’s Armed Forces, but will provide flexibility in assuring allies and deterring aggression,” it added.

A flurry of urgent phone calls are being made between Washington and Kiev, as well as other allied capitals on Saturday, with also Secretary Austin phoning his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu to discuss Russia’s military “build-up in Crimea and around Ukraine” and the Kremlin’s intent.

Crucially, an urgent call between Presidents Biden and Putin is being held Saturday, at 11 a.m. ET/7 p.m. Moscow time, according to the Kremlin.

Moscow said the call was initiated by the White House. Putin also held a call with French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday, as the diplomatic scramble is on to avoid direct military confrontation.

Meanwhile, both the US and Russia have begun drawing down diplomatic personnel at their embassies and consulates. The State Dept. said it’s “preparing for a worst-case scenario.”

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Courtesy of Zero Hedge

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