Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

•Russian president wants to prevent Ukraine from having sovereignty, territorial integrity, says French Foreign Minister

•US says Putin increasing military options

•German Chancellor Scholz flies to Moscow in bid to avert war

By Yusuf Özcan, Sarah Marsh  Federica MarsiDavid Child and Farah Najjar

The French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday that “all the elements” were in place for Russia to stage an attack on Ukraine. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to prevent Ukraine from having sovereignty and territorial integrity. There are “all the elements” for staging an attack by Russia on Ukraine, he told the French public channel France 5.

Tensions in the Ukraine-Russia crisis have increased and should be reduced “urgently,” Le Drian said.

Le Drian also said that if Ukraine’s sovereignty or territorial integrity is questioned by the attack, Moscow will be sanctioned.

Also, France will support Ukraine financially but does not plan to send troops, Le Drian said, adding they will take “deterrent measures” so that Putin knows the “risks” he is taking.

Some Western media reports claimed that Russia could launch an attack on Ukraine on Wednesday.

Moscow recently amassed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine, prompting fears that the Kremlin could be planning another military offensive against its former Soviet neighbor.

Russia has denied that it is preparing to invade and accused Western countries of undermining its security through NATO’s expansion towards its borders.

The Kremlin also issued a list of security demands to the West, including a rollback of troop deployments from some ex-Soviet states and guarantees that Ukraine and Georgia would not join NATO.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is adding more military force and capability near Ukraine’s border with each passing day, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby has said.

“This is a military that, that continues to grow stronger, continues to grow more ready. They’re exercising, so we believe that he has a lot of capabilities and options available to him should he want to use military force,” Kirby told MSNBC in an interview on Monday.

“We believe that he has a lot of capabilities and options available to him. Should he want to use military force and as we said, it could happen any day,” he said.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom’s foreign minister said Russia could invade Ukraine “at any moment”, citing the latest intelligence seen by London.

“Latest information suggests Russia could invade at any moment and we urge the Kremlin to deescalate,” Liz Truss tweeted.

The comments come in the face of spiralling tensions with Moscow, which has massed an estimated 100,000 soldiers and advanced weapons around Ukraine’s borders.

This live blog is now closed, thanks for joining us. Here are the updates for February 14.

German Chancellor heads to Russia

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz heads to Moscow on Tuesday to meet President Vladimir Putin in a high stakes mission to avert war, with Russia’s largest trading partner in Europe warning of far-reaching sanctions if it attacks Ukraine.

Scholz’s one-day trip, after visiting Kyiv on Monday, is part of frantic Western diplomacy to try to stop a potential attack as more than 100,000 Russian troops mass on Ukraine’s borders.

The chancellor has said he will hammer home the message from the West that they are open to dialogue about Russia’s security concerns but will impose sanctions if it invades Ukraine.

“We are ready for very far-reaching and effective sanctions in coordination with our allies,” he said in Kyiv on Monday before returning to Berlin.

Warnings of sanctions could hit home harder coming from Germany, Russia’s number one trade partner in Europe and the biggest consumer of Russian natural gas – although that could also limit Scholz’s room for manoeuvre.

He signalled last month “everything will have to be discussed should there be a military intervention” when asked about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany, which is intended to bring more Russian gas to Western Europe, bypassing traditional transit country Ukraine. read more

But he has not vowed to end Nord Stream 2 or even named it in connection with sanctions, in contrast to U.S. President Joe Biden who said last Monday the pipeline would be halted if Russia invaded. read more

Russia denies planning to invade, accusing the West, which has sent a flurry of officials to Moscow and Kyiv, of hysteria.

COALITION DISAGREEMENTS

Scholz, who took office in December, has faced criticism for his low profile during the crisis, contrasting with Angela Merkel’s leadership during Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. French President Emmanuel Macron has taken the lead in Europe, visiting Moscow a week ago and telephoning Putin regularly.

Merkel and Putin were able to speak in one another’s native tongues. She became his key interlocutor in Europe during her 16 years in power. This will be Scholz’s first meeting with Putin as chancellor, although he has met him in previous senior roles.

“Merkel had this special relationship with Putin – I think he respected her – and they had a long time to build their relationship,” said Jana Puglierin, director of the Berlin office of the European Council of Foreign Relations. “For Scholz, it will be trickier.”

Scholz’s government has been accused of giving mixed signals on the crisis, with disagreements among the three parties making up the coalition as well as within his ruling Social Democrats (SPD).

Junior coalition party the Greens, which holds the foreign ministry, wants to axe Nord Stream 2. Former SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who took a job at Russian energy giant Gazprom after leaving office in 2005, continues to lobby for it.

The SPD’s traditional desire for closer engagement with Russia could be an asset in the talks with Putin, said Puglierin. “But Scholz cannot afford to be the weak link in the Western alliance,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday suggested to Putin that Moscow continue along the diplomatic path in its efforts to extract security guarantees from the West.

Credits | Reuters, AA and Al-Jazeera

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