German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived in Moscow on Tuesday to meet President Vladimir Putin in a high stakes mission to avert war, saying 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.
Meanwhile, some troops in Russia’s military districts adjacent to Ukraine returned to their bases after completing drills, Russia’s defence ministry was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying, a move that could de-escalate frictions between Moscow and the West.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is also due to visit Belgium – where he’ll meet NATO allies – Lithuania and Poland, a day after Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov held out the hope for diplomacy after urging Putin to continue talks.
Amid frantic diplomacy to try and avert conflict in Ukraine, the United States extended a $1 billion sovereign loan guarantee to Ukraine, as the build-up of Russian troops at the country’s borders weighs on its economy.
Here are the latest updates.
EU says ready to discuss Russian security concerns
The European Union is ready to discuss Russia’s security concerns, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said, as tensions between Russia and Ukraine continue to heighten.
“In order to fulfill the concerns of everybody, the only way is speaking on the table and discuss,” Borrell told BBC Radio 4. “If there is a war between Russia and Ukraine, Nordstream 2 would not become operational”, he added.
Germany’s Scholz lands in Moscow
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has landed in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Instead of taking a Russian coronavirus test, Scholz decided to have a doctor from the German embassy carry out the PCR test – a requirement before entering the Kremlin.
Russian health officials have been invited to be present for the test, according to sources from the German delegation.
Germany urges Russia to withdraw troops from Ukrainian border
Germany urged Russia to withdraw its troops from the Ukrainian border and engage in diplomacy for a peaceful solution.
“We believe that it’s clearly Russia’s responsibility to de-escalate the situation,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a statement, ahead of her visit to NATO ally Spain.
“The government in Moscow should withdraw its troops and provide full transparency about its actions,” she stressed, adding that this is Russia’s obligation as a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Baerbock expressed concern over the recent escalation, and reiterated that Germany will continue its diplomatic efforts, together with its EU partners and NATO allies, for a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Some Russian forces near Ukraine returning to bases
Some troops in Russia’s military districts adjacent to Ukraine are returning to their bases after completing drills, Russia’s defence ministry was quoted as saying, a move that could de-escalate frictions between Moscow and the West.
Russia’s Interfax news agency cited the ministry as saying that while large-scale drills across the country continued, some units of the Southern and Western military districts have completed their exercises and started returning to base.
“Units of the Southern and Western military districts, having completed their tasks, have already begun loading onto rail and road transport and today they will begin moving to their military garrisons,” a defence ministry spokesman said.
European stocks steady on easing Ukraine fears
European stock markets steadied on hopes that Ukraine and Russia will avoid a full-blown conflict.
London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index edged up 0.1 percent to 7,539.83 points.
In the eurozone, Frankfurt’s DAX index was flat at 15,110.75 points, as was the Paris CAC 40 at 6,853.69.
“There is a certain relief in the Ukraine-Russia crisis as the two sides seem willing to continue their diplomatic efforts to avoid a military action,” noted Swissquote senior analyst Ipek Ozkardeskaya.
Images show new Russian military activity near Ukraine
New commercial satellite images show a flurry of Russian military activity at several locations near Ukraine, the private US company that released the pictures said.
US-based Maxar Technologies, which has been tracking the buildup of Russian forces for weeks, said that images taken on Sunday and Monday captured significant new activity in Belarus, annexed Crimea and western Russia.
The images could not be independently verified.
Maxar pointed to the arrival of several large deployments of troops and attack helicopters as well new deployments of ground attack aircraft and fighter-bomber jets to forward locations.
The images also captured the departure of multiple ground forces units from existing garrisons along with other combat units seen in convoy formation, Maxar said.
UK’s Truss says Russian invasion of Ukraine could be imminent
A Russian invasion of Ukraine is highly likely, could be imminent and would pose a threat to Europe’s wider stability that emboldens aggressors around the world, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Tuesday.
Truss said an invasion could be imminent, and Russian troops could reach Kyiv “very, very quickly.”
“This is … about the wider stability of Europe,” she told Sky News. “And it’s about wider global stability, and the message that we give to aggressors and we have to give the message to Vladimir Putin that there can be no reward for aggression.”
Truss echoed politicians in the United States who have warned that a so-called “false flag” operation could be used by Moscow to trigger a conflict.
“It is still the case that an invasion could be imminent, and it is highly likely,” she said.
Russians scoff at Western fears of Ukraine invasion
While the US warns that Russia could invade Ukraine any day, the drumbeat of war is all but unheard in Moscow, where pundits and ordinary people alike don’t expect President Vladimir Putin to launch an attack on its ex-Soviet neighbor.
The Kremlin has cast the US warnings of an imminent attack as “hysteria” and “absurdity,” and many Russians believe that Washington is deliberately stoking panic and fomenting tensions to trigger a conflict for domestic reasons.
Speaking to reporters after President Joe Biden’s call with Putin on Saturday, Kremlin foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov bemoaned what he described as US “hysteria” about an allegedly imminent invasion, saying that the situation has “reached the point of absurdity.”
Russian officials have angrily denied any plans to attack Ukraine and dismissed Western concerns about the buildup near the country, arguing that Moscow is free to deploy its troops wherever it likes on its national territory.
India advises citizens to leave Ukraine
The Indian embassy in Ukraine issued an advisory, calling on its nationals, “particularly students whose stay is not essential, to temporarily leave Ukraine amid fears of an imminent war with Russia.
The embassy also advised Indian nationals against travel to and within Ukraine.
— India in Ukraine (@IndiainUkraine) February 15, 2022
Russia to respond if citizens are killed in eastern Ukraine
Russia will “respond” if Russian citizens start being killed anywhere, including in Ukraine’s rebel Donbass region, Russia’s RIA news agency cited Russian envoy to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, as saying.
“We will not invade Ukraine unless we are provoked to do that,” Chizhov said. “If the Ukrainians launch an attack against Russia, you shouldn’t be surprised if we counterattack. Or, if they start blatantly killing Russian citizens anywhere – Donbass or wherever.”
Americans advised to leave Belarus immediately
American citizens should leave Belarus immediately due to the buildup of Russian troops along Belarus’ border with Ukraine, said the US State Department.
Aviation fears grow over Russia fallout from Ukraine crisis
Airlines and the leasing companies that control billions of dollars worth of passenger jets are drawing up contingency plans for a freeze in business with Russia if the standoff on Ukraine’s border boils over into a military conflict.
Aviation bosses are worried about the impact on dealings with Russian companies. Sanctions could disrupt payments to leasing firms, and any retaliatory move by Moscow to restrict access to Russian airspace might throw east-west trade into chaos.
“We are expecting an asymmetrical Russian response,” said a Western source involved in drawing up scenarios, adding the West was unlikely to restrict its own airspace first.
Scholz flies to Moscow in bid to avert war
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz heads to Moscow 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.
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.
Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida to call Zelenskyy
Japanese media is reporting that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will speak to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the phone later.
There’s been no official confirmation of the call, which the media said would take place in the evening Japanese time.
Kishida has that Japan is “watching the situation with grave concern.”
US offers Ukraine $1bn loan guarantee
The United States is offering Ukraine a sovereign loan guarantee of up to $1bn to help its economy amid pressure from Russia’s military buildup.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the offer ”will bolster Ukraine’s ability to ensure economic stability, growth, and prosperity for its people in the face of Russia’s destabilizing behaviour”.
The US issued three separate $1 billion sovereign loan guarantees to Ukraine between 2014 and 2016m and has also provided more than $2 billion in development assistance to Ukraine since 2014.
Japan warns of sanctions if Russia attacks
Japan could impose sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told a regular press conference that while Japan is “strongly seeking” a diplomatic resolution it would take “appropriate steps, including possible sanctions, in response to what has actually happened, and in coordination with the G7 and international community.”
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Ukraine crisis.
You can read all the updates from Monday, February 14 here