Russia has expelled the second-highest diplomat from the US embassy in a tit-for-tat measure, according to the Foreign Ministry

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, with US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, left, during a UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine February 17 in New York. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia was preparing the ground to justify starting a war and preparing to launch an attack on Ukraine in the coming days, urging Moscow to change course in a tense meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Thursday.

Blinken changed his travel plans so he could speak at Thursday’s UN meeting, where the top US diplomat said he was detailing US intelligence on Russia’s attempts to fabricate a pretext for an invasion to “influence Russia to abandon the path of war and choose a different path while there is still time.”

I’m not here today to start a war, but to prevent one,” Blinken said.

The United States says evidence on the Ukrainian border shows Russia is “heading for an imminent invasion” and is not withdrawing its troops, despite Moscow’s claims. Comments from Blinken and other senior US officials on Thursday – including President Joe Biden’s blunt warning that he believed an attack would occur ‘within the next few days’ – marked an even greater sense of urgency. from the Biden administration that Russia’s actions indicated that the Kremlin was moving forward with war plans.

“Every indication we have is that they are ready to enter Ukraine, to attack Ukraine,” Biden told reporters as he left the White House on Thursday.

Russia once again dismissed the idea that it was preparing to attack Ukraine as “baseless accusations”.

In his address to the Security Council, Blinken laid out several steps the United States expected from Russia in the coming days to try to justify military action in Ukraine. He said Moscow would likely try to generate a pretext for war, which could be a fabricated terror attack inside Russia, the fabricated discovery of a mass grave or a staged drone strike.

“Russia can describe this event as ethnic cleansing or genocide, mocking a concept that we in this chamber do not take lightly,” Blinken said.

Blinken said senior Russian officials were likely to hold urgent meetings ahead of an attack that would include Russian bombings across Ukraine and cyberattacks. He added that the United States believed that Moscow had already selected targets on which Russian tanks and troops would advance, including the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

Blinken acknowledged “some have questioned our information,” nodding to past issues with US intelligence in the run-up to the war in Iraq. But he added that the United States would be relieved if its predictions turned out to be incorrect and if Russia changed course.

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