•Moscow slams reports about ‘imminent invasion of Ukraine’ as ‘disinformation campaign’ against Russia
•Kremlin says Putin will hold separate talks Saturday with US, French presidents
•‘We will keep using all diplomatic means to ensure security of Ukraine,’ says Ukrainian foreign minister
•Asks Russia to explain its military activities within 48 hours
•Americans should leave Ukraine within 48 hours, White House warns
•US national security adviser urges Americans to leave quickly, as Biden coordinates with European allies on response to Russia.
•UK urges citizens to leave Ukraine: Foreign Office travel advice says Brits ‘should leave now while commercial means are still available‘
•Germany to use all diplomatic means to prevent war in Europe, Scholz says
•Chancellor says will travel to Ukraine and Russia next week as part of diplomatic efforts to find peaceful solution
•Normandy format talks in Berlin end without tangible results
•All parties reaffirm their willingness to continue negotiations, says Ukrainian
By Elena Teslova and Merve Berker
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova slammed reports Friday about Russia’s “imminent invasion” of Ukraine as a “mass disinformation campaign” against Russia.
“The White House hysteria is more revealing than ever. The Anglo-Saxons need a war. At any cost. Provocations, disinformation, and threats are favorite methods of solving their own problems,” she wrote in a post on her Telegram channel. “Road roller of the American military-political machine is ready to go through people’s lives. The whole world is watching how militarism, imperial ambitions denounce themselves. And a propaganda brigade chaired by Bloomberg serving all this.”
Zakharova said the position of Western officials “in conditions of a mass disinformation campaign against Russia” is worth a separate mention — avoiding giving a proper assessment of what is happening, the authorities validate their involvement in “fakes.”
“We can talk about the collusion of the authorities of Western countries and the media in order to escalate artificial tension around Ukraine by the massive and coordinated publication of false information in geopolitical interests, in particular, to distract attention from their own aggressive actions,” she wrote.
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a separate statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin will talk Saturday with his US counterpart Joe Biden at the request of Washington.
“Indeed, the American side has asked for a conversation with President Putin, and tomorrow evening, Moscow time, a conversation between the two presidents is planned. The request was preceded by a written appeal from the American side,” he said.
In addition, Putin will also speak to French President Emmanuel Macron as they agreed in a meeting in Moscow on Feb. 8, he said.
The British Foreign Office urged UK citizens on Friday not to travel to Ukraine and those who are there to leave.
Separately, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan claimed Russia can start an invasion of Ukraine at any moment.
He said the US continues reducing its diplomatic staff in Ukraine, prompting the American citizens to leave.
Ukraine asks Russia to explain its military activities near it’s borders
Meanwhile, Ukraine has asked Russia to explain its activities on the borders of Ukraine within the next 48 hours, the Ukrainian foreign minister said on Friday.
“We have officially triggered the risk reduction mechanism in accordance with para. III of the Vienna Document, and requested Russia to provide detailed explanations on military activities in the areas adjacent to the territory of Ukraine and in the temporarily occupied Crimea,” Dmytro Kuleba said.
“According to the Vienna Document, Russia needs to provide detailed explanation on the objectives, precise location and dates of completion of its military activities, as well as designation, subordination, number and types of formations, as well as types of equipment involved,” the statement added.
“Russia has 48 hours to reply. In case of absence of reply or its insufficiency/irrelevance, Ukraine will address Russia, as well as other participating states of the Vienna Document, in order to convene an extraordinary meeting where Russia will have to provide explanations,” he noted.
“We will keep using all diplomatic means to ensure security of Ukraine.”
Ukraine has been plagued by conflict in its eastern regions since March 2014 following Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea.
Moscow recently amassed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine, prompting fears that the Kremlin could be planning another military offensive against its ex-Soviet neighbor.
Russia has denied it is preparing to invade and accused Western countries of undermining its security by NATO’s expansion towards its borders.
The Kremlin also issued a list of security demands to the West, including a rolling back of troop deployments from some ex-Soviet states, and guarantees that Ukraine and Georgia will not join NATO.
White House asks US citizens to leave Ukraine within 48 hours
A top United States official has warned that the Russian military is in a position to invade Ukraine within days and urged Americans to leave the country immediately.
Jake Sullivan, US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, said at a White House media briefing on Friday that US observations and intelligence show Russia has all the military elements in place needed for an invasion of Ukraine.
A rapid assault on the city of Kyiv beginning with an aerial bombing campaign is a possibility and could come before the end of the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing next week, Sullivan said.
“We can’t pinpoint the day at this point, and we can’t pinpoint the hour, but that is a very, very distinct possibility,” Sullivan said, cautioning that US officials still do not believe Putin has decided to invade and the US continues to seek a diplomatic outcome to the crisis.
“We are not saying that a decision has been taken – that a final decision has been taken by President Putin. What we are saying is that, we have a sufficient level of concern based on what we are seeing on the ground,” Sullivan told reporters at the White House.
“We continue to see signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border,” Sullivan said. “As we’ve said before, we are in the window when an invasion could begin at any time should Vladimir Putin decide to order it.”
Russia has deployed more than 100,000 ground troops to its borders with Ukraine in recent weeks and is carrying out military exercises in Belarus and naval manoeuvres in the Black Sea. Moscow has denied it intends to invade Ukraine but has demanded new security guarantees including that Ukraine will never join the NATO alliance.
Sullivan’s comments were delivered after a nearly hour and 20-minute conference call between President Biden and European allies, conducted from the White House’s secure situation room amid escalating troop movements and a flurry of diplomacy. Participants in the call included the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania and the UK, along with heads of the European Commission and NATO.
The group discussed diplomatic “engagements with Russia in multiple formats” and agreed on “readiness to impose massive consequences and severe economic costs on Russia” if it invades Ukraine, according to a White House account of the call.
The US and Russian military chiefs of staff also spoke on the phone Friday, according to the Pentagon.
France’s Emmanuel Macron will speak with Putin on Saturday, the French presidency has said. Biden will also speak with Putin on Saturday, a White House official told the Reuters news agency.
The US will be sending 3,000 US-based forces from the Army’s 82nd Airborne to Poland in coming days. The new deployment is in addition to 8,500 troops the US already has already placed on alert for deployment to NATO countries and 3,000 troops now being sent to Poland, Romania, and Germany.
Sullivan emphasised US deployments are defensive in nature and American forces would not engage in hostilities with Russian troops in the event of an invasion of Ukraine.
Americans in Ukraine should leave within the next 24 to 48 hours, and any who need help obtaining transport out of the country should contact the American embassy in Kyiv, Sullivan said.
“The risk is now high enough and the threat is immediate enough that prudence demands that it is the time to leave now,” Sullivan said.
The UK has advised British nationals to leave Ukraine and warned that a Russian invasion may be imminent.
“While commercial options and commercial rail and air service exist while the roads are open, the President will not be putting the lives of our men and women in uniform at risk by sending them into a war zone to rescue people who could have left now but chose not to. So, we were asking people to make the responsible choice,” Sullivan said.
Meanwhile, Kyiv on Friday asked Moscow to explain its activities on the borders of Ukraine within the next 48 hours, the Ukrainian foreign minister said.
“We have officially triggered the risk reduction mechanism in accordance with para III of the Vienna Document, and requested Russia to provide detailed explanations on military activities in the areas adjacent to the territory of Ukraine and in the temporarily occupied Crimea,” Dmytro Kuleba said.
Biden on Friday afternoon headed for the weekend to the presidential retreat at Camp David with top White House advisers.
Germany still hopeful of diplomatic solution
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday renewed his plea for diplomatic solution to crisis between Russia and Ukraine, and warned Moscow that any further aggression would incur severe costs.
Scholz made the remarks during his speech in Federal Council (Bundesrat), the legislative body representing country’s federated states.
“It’s our duty to prevent a new war in Europe. Our clear message to Russia is, any military aggression would have severe consequences,” he said, adding that Germany and its Western allies have a united position on possible sanctions.
“But at the same time, we will use all the opportunities to continue our (diplomatic) efforts, through bilateral talks between the US and Russia, NATO-Russia Council meetings, through the OSCE and the Normandy format talks, “ he added.
Scholz said he will travel to Ukraine and Russia next week, as part of diplomatic efforts to find a political solution to the crisis.
“All this would serve what we’d like to achieve, to ensure peace in Europe, and it is worth the effort,” he said.
Ukraine has been plagued by conflict in its eastern regions since March 2014 following Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea
Normandy format talks faulters
Negotiations in the German capital Berlin between political advisers from Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany under the Normandy format ended without yielding any substantial results, Ukrainian presidential sources said early Friday.
The second meeting of 2022, in which Ukraine was represented by Andriy Yermak, the head of the Office of the President, lasted over nine hours, said the Ukrainian presidency in a statement.
Reiterating Ukraine’s commitment to a political and diplomatic settlement of the ongoing tensions, Yermak said the country would continue to take measures to intensify the work of all existing negotiation formats in order to facilitate the peace process.
All parties reaffirmed their willingness to continue negotiations in the Normandy format, the statement noted, adding the parties also agreed on the necessity to unblock the work of the Trilateral Contact Group.
The Kremlin’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Dmitry Kozak, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s chief foreign policy adviser Jens Ploetner and French President Emmanuel Macron’s diplomatic adviser Emmanuel Bonne were the other participants of the meeting who represented their countries.
A previous meeting of the Normandy format group was held two weeks ago in Paris, the first such meeting of the political advisers after more than a year’s break, amid growing tensions in the region.
Credit | AA, Aljazeerah