US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that a Russian attack on Ukraine remained a possibility and that reports that some Russian forces have moved away from the Ukraine border have not yet been verified by the United States. Read below about Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.
- 9:30pm Paris time
Biden says Russian attack still ‘a possibility’
US President Biden spoke at the White House about the situation in Ukraine and said a Russian attack on the country was "still very much a possibility", saying Moscow’s claim that it is withdrawing some of its troops from the Ukrainian border still needed to be verified.
According to Biden, Russia has more than 150,000 troops circling Ukraine.
Biden said the US favoured "high diplomacy", and that although Washington would not send American servicemen to Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, it has already provided the country arms and would send troops to protect NATO allies.
He also had message to the Russian people: "To the citizens of Russia: you are not our enemy, and I don’t believe you want a bloody, destructive war against Ukraine," Biden said.
- 6:33pm Paris time
Macron, Biden say verification needed to prove Russian pullback
In a telephone conversation on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron and his American counterpart Joe Biden agreed over the need to verify Russian claims that it was beginning to pull troops back from close to the border with Ukraine.
The French presidency said the two leaders spoke with each other for around an hour, and that they also underscored the importance of remaining "perfectly coordinated" in policy towards Russia.
5:30pm Paris time
Scholz: Europe needs Russia’s help in ensuring lasting security
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in yet another effort by the West to resolve the Ukraine crisis diplomatically. Scholz said Russia’s partial troop withdrawal was a ‘good sign’, and noted that lasting stability and security in Europe could only be achieved with Moscow’s help. He also commented on the controversial Nord Stream gas pipeline.
Read the full story here: ’Lasting security’ in Europe can only be achieved with Russian help, Scholz says
5:24pm Paris time
Ukraine suspects Russia in cyber attack
Ukraine’s cybersecurity centre says the websites of the Ukrainian defence ministry and banks Privatbank and Oshadbank are under a cyber attack, Russia’s TASS news agency reports.
The Ukrainian cybersecurity centre said Russia could be to blame for the attack. A message on the home page of the Ukrainian defence ministry website says it is under maintenance.
- 3:49pm Paris time
EU warns Russia against recognising Ukraine’s breakaway regions
The European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell has warned Moscow against recognising two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent.
"This recognition would be a clear violation of the Minsk agreements", Borrell said, referring to the peace deals signed in the Belarusian capital in September 2014 and in February 2015 to try to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
"EU support and commitment to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders remains unwavering."
Russia’s lower house of parliament voted earlier on Tuesday to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to recognise the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, in the area known as the Donbass, where separatist forces have been fighting the Ukrainian army since 2014.
- 2:57pm Paris time
NATO says Russia’s announcement cause for ‘cautious optimism’
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said "there are signs from Moscow that diplomacy should continue, this gives grounds for cautious optimism. But so far, we have not seen any sign of de-escalation on the ground".
Stoltenberg, who spoke to journalists in Brussels, warned however that Moscow still had "everything in place" to stage an attack on Ukraine at any time, but said the Kremlin "has time to step back from the brink".
"We will continue to monitor and to follow closely what Russia is doing," he said.
The US ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith, meanwhile, said it was too early to say if Moscow was in fact withdrawing its forces.
"Obviously, we would have to see much of that force posture shift for us to feel reassured about de-escalation."
1:40pm Paris time
UK PM Johnson says sees diplomatic opening with Russia but intelligence still worrying
Britain sees signs of a diplomatic opening with Russia over Ukraine, but the latest intelligence is still not encouraging, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday.
"Going into today clearly there are signs of a diplomatic opening, there always has been an opportunity to talk, there are grounds for a conversation about Ukraine, with Ukraine — And that’s good. We are seeing Russian openness to conversations," Johnson told reporters.
"On the other hand, the intelligence that we’re seeing today is still not encouraging."
1:39pm Paris time
NATO warns Moscow against recognising breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Moscow on Tuesday against recognising the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in eastern Ukraine.
"If that happens, that will be a blatant violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty once again, because there is no doubt that Donetsk and Luhansk are part of Ukraine within internationally recognised borders," Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels. "So such a recognition would be a violation of international law and territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. Not only that, it will also be a violation of the Minsk agreements, so it will make it even harder to find a political solution based on the Minsk agreements," he added.
Russia’s lower house of parliament had voted on Tuesday to ask President Vladimir Putin to recognise two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent, the house speaker said.
1:18pm Paris time
NATO calls on Russia to prove will to de-escalate with actions on the ground
NATO’s chief on Tuesday welcomed signals that Russia may be looking for a diplomatic solution amid a military build-up on Ukraine’s border but urged Moscow to demonstrate its will to act.
"There are signs from Moscow that diplomacy should continue. This gives grounds for cautious optimism. But so far we have not seen any sign of de-escalation on the ground from the Russian side," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters ahead of a two-day meeting of the alliance’s defence ministers in Brussels.
"Russia has amassed a fighting force in and around Ukraine unprecedented since the cold war. Everything is now in place for a new attack. But Russia still has time to step back from the brink, stop preparing for war and start working for a peaceful solution," Stoltenberg said, calling the current situation the "most serious security crisis we have faced in Europe for decades".
12:07pm Paris time
Putin, Scholz begin talks in Moscow over Ukraine security
Talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz began in Moscow Tuesday, the latest meeting in weeks of diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions over Ukraine.
"Unfortunately, we will devote a significant portion of our time to issues related to the situation in Europe and to security," including Ukraine, Putin said during opening remarks at the beginning of the talks.
12:00pm Paris time
FRANCE 24 correspondent Gulliver Cragg reports live from Ukraine
11:40am Paris time
Kremlin confirms planned pullback of some troops from Ukraine border
The Kremlin said Tuesday the pullback of some Russian forces from Ukraine’s borders was planned but stressed Russia would continue to move troops across the country as it saw fit.
"We have always said that after the exercises are over ... troops would return to their permanent bases. There’s nothing new here. This is a usual process," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
11:37am Paris time
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov says will continue dialogue with West
Speaking after talks with Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau in Moscow, Lavrov dismissed as "information terrorism" reports that Russia is planning an incursion into Ukraine.
11:35am Paris time
Polish foreign minister proposes further Ukraine talks within OSCE
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) wants to create a platform for talks to prevent crises like the one in Ukraine, the Polish foreign minister said on Tuesday, as he called for further dialogue on the standoff.
"We would like to create an informal platform for open political discussion between OSCE nations, which would allow for the discussion of mechanisms for stopping crises like the present one," said Zbigniew Rau, who is serving as chairman of the OSCE, during a visit to Moscow.
10:08am Paris time
Ukraine says collaboration with West has stopped Russian escalation
Ukraine said Tuesday that its joint diplomatic efforts with Western allies have managed to avert a feared Russian invasion.
"We and our allies have managed to prevent Russia from any further escalation. It is already the middle of February, and you see that diplomacy is continuing to work," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters.
09:56am Paris time
Norway adds more troops to NATO force in Lithuania
Norway will increase its contribution to NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence forces in Lithuania by between 50 and 60 troops due to the tense security situation in and around Ukraine, the Norwegian defence minister said on Tuesday.
"The massive Russian build-up around Ukraine, and the demands on the United States and Europe, have changed the security situation in Europe," Defence Minister Odd Roger Enoksen said in a statement.
"This also affects Norway, and we are following the situation closely," he added.
The troops will remain in Lithuania for an initial three months, and their stay could be extended.
09:51am Paris time
Top EU diplomat Borrell says EU is 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 on Tuesday, 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.
Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops around Ukrainian borders in recent months but denies plans to invade. It demands what it says are security guarantees from the West.
09:45am Paris time
US urges its citizens to immediately leave Belarus
The United States has urged its citizens to immediately leave Belarus, citing a buildup of Russian troops along the border with neighboring Ukraine.
The travel advisory, issued Monday, came the same day that Washington announced it was closing its Kyiv embassy and relocating staff to the Ukrainian city of Lviv 335 miles (540 kilometres) away due to a "dramatic acceleration" in the buildup of Russian forces.
Last week, Washington warned that Russia could attack "any day now".
"Due to an increase in unusual and concerning Russian military activity near the border with Ukraine, US citizens located in or considering travel to Belarus should be aware that the situation is unpredictable and there is heightened tension in the region," the advisory said.
It also noted that last month, the State Department ordered all family members of the Minsk embassy to leave.
American citizens have already been urged to leave Ukraine, with the West accusing Russia of sending more than 100,000 soldiers to encircle the former Soviet state.
In addition to fears of a possible military conflict on the border, Washington’s "do not travel" advisory for Belarus flagged the risk of detention, arbitrary enforcement of laws and Covid-19 entry restrictions as reasons for Americans to get out.
"The US government’s ability to provide routine or emergency services to US citizens in Belarus is already severely limited due to Belarusian government limitations on US Embassy staffing," it said.
09:42am Paris time
UK says still time for Putin to step back from conflict
Britain on Tuesday said "there is still time" for Russian President Vladimir Putin to step back and recall troops massed on Ukraine’s border.
"We could be on the brink of a war in Europe, which would have severe consequences not just for the people of Russia and Ukraine, but also for the broader security of Europe," Foreign Minister Liz Truss told Sky News.
"There is still time for Vladimir Putin to step away from the brink. But there is only a limited amount of time for him to do that," she added, warning an invasion could be "imminent".
Truss held frosty talks last week with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow. He called it "a conversation between a mute person and a deaf person".
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday urged Putin to step back from "the edge of a precipice", warning that an invasion of Ukraine could come within 48 hours.
"You’ve got about 130,000 troops massing on the Ukrainian border. This is a very, very dangerous, difficult situation," Johnson told reporters on a visit to Scotland.
"We are on the edge of a precipice but there is still time for President Putin to step back," he added.
Johnson will on Tuesday chair a meeting of the Civil Contingencies Committee that is convened to handle matters of national emergency or major disruption to discuss the UK’s response to the crisis.
The government on Friday urged all Britons to leave Ukraine country by commercial flights, but says it is maintaining a "core" diplomatic presence in Kyiv.
09:40am Paris time
Moscow says some Russian forces near Ukraine returning to bases
Russia said Tuesday that some forces deployed near Ukraine were beginning to return to their bases, after a build-up of Moscow’s army around Ukrainian borders spurred fears of an invasion.
"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.
The comments carried by Russian news agencies come ahead a scheduled meeting between German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Russian President Vladimir Putin to defuse tensions over Ukraine.
A build-up of some 100,000 Russian troops around the ex-Soviet country spurred European leaders and Washington to warn of sweeping economic penalties if Russia escalates an ongoing separatist conflict in Ukraine by sending in troops.
Tensions have been exacerbated by Russian military drills, including near Ukraine and in Belarus, where the United States says some 30,000 troops are participating in exercises scheduled to run until February 20.
Meeting with Putin earlier this week, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said some of the Russian war games would soon be drawing to a close.
Ukraine’s defence minister meanwhile said Monday he had spoken with his Belarusian counterpart and received assurances there was no threat to Kyiv from Belarusian territory.
09:23am Paris time
Japan PM Kishida, EU’s von der Leyen discuss Ukraine — ministry
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen discussed the Ukraine situation during a telephone call on Tuesday, Japan’s foreign ministry said.
"The two leaders shared the view that they have monitored the situation around Ukraine with grave concern and consistently supported the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine," the ministry said in a statement.
08:02am Paris time
Germany calls on Russia to ‘withdraw its troops’ around Ukraine
Germany on Tuesday said it was up to Russia to de-escalate the conflict around Ukraine, calling for Moscow to withdraw its troops, as Chancellor Olaf Scholz readied to meet President Vladimir Putin over the crisis.
"The situation is particularly dangerous and can escalate at any moment," Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a statement, ahead of the talks in Moscow between the two leaders.
"The responsibility for de-escalation is clearly with Russia, and it is for Moscow to withdraw its troops," she said.
"The EU and NATO are united around Ukraine," she said, adding that "we must use all opportunities for dialogue in order to reach a peaceful solution."
Scholz’s talks with Putin at the Kremlin are the latest in an intense diplomatic scramble to dissuade the Russian leader from attacking his ex-Soviet neighbour Ukraine.
Western leaders consider the Russian troop build-up on its border with Ukraine to be the worst threat to the continent’s security since the Cold War and have prepared a crippling package of economic sanctions in response to any attack on its neighbour.
The Russian leader and his top aides have consistently argued that the current crisis is the result of the United States and western Europe ignoring Moscow’s legitimate security concerns.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)
Originally published on France24