President Zelenskyy calls on citizens to fly the country's flag from buildings and sing the national anthem in unison on Wednesday –– a date that some US officials and Western media cite as a possible start of Russia marching into Ukraine.
Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy has declared Wednesday a national "unity day" –– the day US, UK and other allies warn might mark the start of a feared Russian invasion of the former Soviet republic.
"We have been told that February 16 will be the day of the attack, but we will make it the day of unity," said Zelenskyy on Monday.
"They are trying to frighten us by yet again naming a date for the start of military action," Zelenskyy said. "On that day, we will hang our national flags, wear yellow and blue banners, and show the whole world our unity."
Zelenskyy has long said that –– while he believes Russia is threatening his country –– the likelihood of an imminent attack has been overstated by Ukraine's Western allies, responding to Moscow's efforts to intimidate Ukraine and sow panic.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy's chief of staff, told Reuters news agency the president was responding in part "with irony" to media reports of the potential date of the invasion.
"It is quite understandable why Ukrainians today are skeptical about various 'specific dates' of the so-called 'start of the invasion' announced in the media," he said.
"When the 'start of the invasion' becomes some sort of rolling tour date, such media announcements can only be taken with irony."
Leaders who fled asked to return
Zelenskyy also urged state officials, politicians, and business leaders who have recently left the country to return to Ukraine within 24 hours to show unity with the nation.
"It is your direct duty in such a situation to be with us, with the Ukrainian people. I suggest that you return to your homeland within 24 hours and stand shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian army, our diplomacy, and our people," Zelenskiy said in a video address.
Ukrainian media reported that some lawmakers and top businessmen had fled the country last weekend after the United States, Britain and other Western countries advised their citizens to leave Ukraine urgently.
"Return to your people and to your country, which was the source of your factories and fortunes," Zelenskyy said.
Possible invasion after Scholz visit
US intelligence reports briefed to international media suggest that Russia's force around Ukraine's frontiers is now sufficient to launch a meaningful attack and it could happen any day.
The reports say the strike could begin at some point after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz concludes a round of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin on Tuesday.
US officials say Russia has amassed more than 130,000 soldiers at Ukraine's borders who would start by bombarding the country's big cities and defence positions with missiles before moving in with tanks.