The ideas that US President Joe Biden shared to address Moscow’s security demands during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin Saturday did not “touch upon” the demands’ “key elements”, the Kremlin said. Countries from the Netherlands to Saudi Arabia urged their nationals to leave Ukraine as tensions mounted over the buildup of more than 100,000 Russian troops near its border. Catch up on the day’s events as they unfolded .
Kremlin says Russia’s ‘key’ security demands unmet during Biden-Putin call on UkraineRussian leader VladimirPutintold US President Joe Biden that Moscow would review ideas he laid out to address Russia’s security demands in a phone call on Saturday, but that they still did not tackle Moscow’s key concerns, the Kremlin said.
Biden andPutinspoke by phone amid high tension over a Russian military buildup near Ukraine that has fuelled fears of a looming invasion. Russia has repeatedly denied any such plans.
In a briefing with reporters, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov described the call as businesslike, but said it had taken place against a backdrop of “hysteria” in the West about a looming Russian invasion that he said was absurd.
Ushakov said Biden had asked for the call to take place on Saturday as a result of the rising hysteria.
“Biden predictably mentioned possible tough anti-Russian sanctions in the context of the tense situation around Ukraine, but that was not the focus of his rather lengthy conversation with the Russian leader,” Ushakov said.
He said Biden laid out a number of considerations to address the array of security demands that Russia made of the West late last year, including a veto on Ukraine ever joining NATO.
“I will immediately note that the Russian president reacted in the spirit that the Russian side would carefully analyse the considerations expressed by Biden and would undoubtedly take them into account,” Ushakov said.
“But unfortunately, and this was said, these considerations do not touch upon the central, key elements of Russian initiatives,” the Kremlin official said.
Ushakov said Biden’s ideas largely repeated the ideas set out in the US. and NATO counterproposals to Russia’s security demands that were handed over on January 26.
He said Russia had practically finished drawing up its response to those counterproposals and would announce them soon.
Putintold Biden he thought the West was not putting enough pressure on Ukraine to implement the Minsk peace agreements on the conflict in east Ukraine, Ushakov said.
Biden warns Putin US will ‘impose severe costs’ on Russia if it invades UkraineUS President Joe Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call Saturday that the United States “will respond decisively and impose swift and severe costs on Russia” should it invade Ukraine.
According to a readout from the White House, Biden stressed that “while the United States remains prepared to engage in diplomacy, in full coordination with our Allies and partners, we are equally prepared for other scenarios”.
The call between the two leaders brought no major change in the standoff over Russian troops massing near Ukraine, a senior US official said.
The call was “professional and substantive and lasted a bit over an hour. There was no fundamental change in the dynamics unfolding now for several weeks,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters.
Macron to speak with Germany’s Scholz, Ukraine’s Zelensky and Biden afterPutin callFrench President Emmanuel Macron will speak to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Joe Biden Saturday as fears mount that Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine, Macron’s office said.
Macron stressed during a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier Saturday that the West would react with “determination” should Russia invade Ukraine, it added.
French presidential aides said Paris considered that Putin believed “that it was not he who took the initiative for the escalation”, but the West who approached the Russian border.
Putin’s goal was to achieve the “neutralisation of Ukraine. He knows that this is unacceptable (for the West) and that his military exercises carry a risk of additional escalation”, they said.
Putin remained demanding and provocative, “taking care nevertheless to keep all his options open”, they added.
France would strengthen advice to its nationals to tell them to avoid travelling to Ukraine, but would not ask them to leave the country, the president’s office said.
Biden and Putin conclude phone call on Ukraine crisisA call between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin Saturday on the Russian troops massing next to Ukraine ended after one hour and two minutes, the White House said.
“President Biden’s secure call with Russian President Putin was completed at 12:06” pm (1706 GMT), an official said. The call started at 1604 GMT.
Dutch airline KLM suspends flights to Ukraine Dutch carrier KLM said on Saturday that it was suspending flights to Ukraine until further notice as fears mount that Russia is preparing to invade its western neighbour.
“The next flight to the capital Kyiv is scheduled for tonight, but will not be operated,” the Netherlands’ main airline said in a statement. The decision followed “changes to travel advice … and a comprehensive security analysis”, it added.
“There will be no flights in Ukrainian airspace until further notice,” the statement said.
The Netherlands joined several European nations including Belgium, Germany and Italy in calling for its citizens to leave Ukraine and advising against travel to the country.
Putin calls accusations Russia will invade Ukraine ‘provocative speculation’Russian President Vladimir Putin told French President Emmanuel Macron Saturday that accusations Moscow plans to attack Ukraine were “provocative speculation” and could lead to a conflict in the ex-Soviet country.
Putin and Macron discussed what Moscow called “provocative speculation related to an allegedly planned Russian ‘invasion’ of Ukraine”, the Kremlin said after phone talks.
In a statement, the Kremlin accused Kyiv’s allies of sending “modern weapons” to the ex-Soviet country and being unwilling to force Kyiv authorities to implement Western-brokered agreements to halt a festering conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“Conditions are being created for possible aggressive actions of the Ukrainian security forces in the Donbass,” the Kremlin added.
Putin, who hosted Macron at the Kremlin last Monday, stressed that there was no reaction from the United States and NATO to Russia’s demands to provide security guarantees, the statement said.
Russia says USsubmarine violated its waters in far eastThe Russian military said on Saturday it used “appropriate means” to make a USsubmarine leave Russian waters in the far east after the vessel ignored a Russian request to leave, Interfax news agency reported.
The submarine was detected near the Pacific Kuril islands asRussia conducted naval exercises, the military was quoted assaying.
Macron tells Putin that ‘sincere dialogue’ and ‘escalation’ are incompatible French President Emmanuel Macron told Russian President Vladimir Putin Saturday “sincere dialogue” is incompatible with escalation as tensions mount between the West and Moscow over fears Moscow will opt to invade Ukraine.
The two leaders spoke for an hour and 40 minutes, the French presidency said, amid a flurry of diplomacy aimed at dissuading Putin from marching into his western neighbour, with US President Joe Biden due to speak to Putin later Saturday.
Macron and Putin “both expressed a desire to continue dialogue”, the French presidency added.
US defence chief orders withdrawal of nearly all troops still in UkraineThe United States is withdrawing nearly all of its remaining soldiers from Ukraine, the Pentagon announced Saturday, as tensions soar over a possible Russian invasion of the eastern European country.
Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin “has ordered the temporary repositioning of the 160 members of the Florida National Guard”,who were in the country “advising and mentoring Ukrainian forces”,Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
Thousands of Ukrainians rally in Kyiv amid fears of Russian invasionSeveral thousand Ukrainians rallied inKyivon Saturday to show unity amid fears of a Russian invasion, as Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky told people not to panic and pushed back against what he said was a glut of bleak war predictions being reported in the media.
Ukrainians filed through the centre ofKyivin a column, chanting “Glory to Ukraine” and carrying Ukrainian flags and banners that said “Ukrainians will resist” and “Invaders must die”.
Zelensky, who attended police drills in the southern Kherson region, said a Russian attack could happen at any time, but pushed back against what he called excessive amounts of information about a major looming war.
“I can’t agree or disagree with what hasn’t happened yet. So far, there is no full-scale war in Ukraine,” he said.
Tension has mounted as Russia has built up more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine and carried out large-scale military exercises. The United States said on Friday an invasion could start at any moment. Russia denies planning to invade.
The United States and numerous Western governments have urged their citizens to leave Ukraine, and Washington on Saturday said it was ordering most of itsKyivembassy staff to leave.
Sweden urges its citizens to leave UkraineSwedish nationals should leave Ukraine as soon as possible in light of the “changing security situation”,Sweden’s government said on Saturday.
Around 200-300 Swedes are in Ukraine according to Sweden’s embassy in Kyiv.
Zelensky asks for proof that Russia plans to invade Ukraine, warns against ‘panic’Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday that warnings of an imminent Russian attack on his country were stoking “panic” and demanded to see firm proof of a planned invasion.
Zelensky’s comments came a day after US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warned that a Russian attack on its western neighbour could “begin at any time”.
Ukrainian leaders have been trying to talk down the prospects of an all-out war because of the damaging effect it was having on the country’s teetering economy and public moral.
“We understand all the risks. We understand that the risks are there,” Zelensky told reporters.
“Right now, the people’s biggest enemy is panic in our country. And all this information is only provoking panic and not helping us,” he said.
“If you or anyone has any additional information about a 100-percent chance of an invasion, give it to us,” he added.
Blinken tells Lavrov that Moscow must ‘de-escalate’ to avoid conflict in UkraineUS Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday that diplomatic channels remained “open” to avoid conflict in Ukraine but would require Moscow to “de-escalate”,the State Department said.
A Russian invasion of Ukraine “would result in a resolute, massive, and united Transatlantic response”,State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
During a call between Washington and Moscow’s top diplomats Saturday, “the secretary made clear that a diplomatic path to resolving the crisis remained open, but it would require Moscow to de-escalate and engage in good-faith discussions”,Price said.
The statement comes ahead of a hastily arranged call between US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin aimed at defusing one of the gravest crises in East-West relations since the Cold War.
Riyadh’s embassy in Kyiv urges Saudi citizens in Ukraine to leaveSaudi Arabia’s embassy in Kyiv on Saturday urged Saudi citizens in Ukraine to quickly get in touch to facilitate their departure from the country, state TV said.
Saudi Arabia and a number of Arab countries including Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates also called on their citizens to postpone any plans to visit Ukraine amid heightened tensions between Kyiv and Moscow.
Lavrov accuses US of ‘propaganda’ about Russian aggressionRussian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a phone call with USSecretary of State Antony Blinken accused Washington of waging a “propaganda campaign” about possible Russian aggression, the Russian foreign ministry said on Saturday.
Russia has built up military forces near Ukraine, fuelling fears it may invade. Moscow denies such plans.
In a readout of Saturday’s phone call with Blinken, Lavrov also said that Washington and Brussels had ignored key Russian security demands.
Ukraine crisis is escalating, German foreign minister saysThe crisis between Russia and Ukraine is escalating, but Germany is making all efforts to find a diplomatic solution, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Saturday.
“We must be prepared for all scenarios,” Baerbock said during a news conference in Cairo.
She was speaking as Berlin urged citizens to leave Ukraine and ahead of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s visit to Ukraine and Russia for talks next week.
Netherlands urges citizens to leave UkraineDutch foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra called on Dutch citizens on Saturday to leave Ukraine as soon as possible due to the security situation there and issued a notice advising against travelling to the country.
US orders non-emergency embassy staff to leave UkraineThe United States on Saturday ordered all non-emergency Kyiv embassy staff to leave because of the threat of Russia invading Ukraine.
The advisory also repeated an earlier call by US President Joe Biden for Americans to leave the former Soviet republic immediately.
The State Department has “ordered the departure of most US direct hire employees from Embassy Kyiv due to the continued threat of Russian military action”,it said in an updated travel advisory.
“The Department of State will suspend consular services at the US Embassy in Kyiv,” it said, adding that a small consular presence would be maintained in Lviv in western Ukraine to handle emergencies.
Washington has stressed that it will not be sending US troops to Ukraine in case of a Russian attack, meaning that it would not be able to arrange evacuation plans for its citizens should war break out.
‘The less we know what Putin will do, the more leverage he has’
Germany advises nationals to leave UkraineThe German foreign ministry hasurgedits citizens to leave Ukraine unless remaining in the country is absolutely necessary.
Taiwan says it is watching situation with China in light of Ukraine crisisTaiwan is closely watching the situation in the narrow strait that separates it from China and raising its preparedness in response to what is happening with Ukraine, the government said on Saturday, though it added the two cases were very different.
China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, has stepped up military activity near the self-governing island over the past two years, though Taiwan has reported no unusual manoeuvres by Chinese forces in recent days as tensions over Ukraine have mounted.
As Western nations warn a war in Ukraine could ignite at any moment, Taiwan’s presidential office said the military continues to strengthen its surveillance operations, adding that regional peace and stability is “the shared responsibility of all parties”.
“All military units continue to pay close attention to the situation in Ukraine and movements in the Taiwan Strait, continue to strengthen joint intelligence and surveillance, and gradually increase the level of combat readiness in response to various signs and threats to effectively respond to various situations,” it added.
Russia says it has ‘optimised’ diplomatic staff numbers in UkraineRussia has decided to “optimise” its diplomatic staff numbers in Ukraine, fearing “provocations” by Kyiv or other party, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry said on Saturday.
Maria Zakharova did not say whether that meant a reduction in staff numbers but said the embassy and consulates in Ukraine continued to perform their key functions.
Ukraine govt calls for calm and unityThe Ukrainian government urged citizens on Saturday to stay calm and united, saying the armed forces are ready to repel any attack on the country.
“It is now critical to remain calm and united within the country, and avoid actions that undermine stability and sow panic,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“Ukraine’s Armed Forces are constantly monitoring developments and are ready to repel any encroachment on the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine,” it added.
Belgium advises nationals to leave UkraineBelgium on Saturday advised its nationals to leave Ukraine after the US warned that a Russian invasion of its neighbour could begin within days with aerial bombardments.
Belgium joins the US and several European countries, who have called on their citizens in Ukraine to leave the country for fear war breaks out.
“Nationals who are currently in Ukraine and whose presence is not strictly necessary in the country are strongly advised to leave the country,” the Belgian foreign ministry said on its website.
It said it strongly advised against travel to the country, adding that an evacuation could not be guaranteed.
The ministry said that in case of a “sudden deterioration, communication links including internet and telephone lines could be seriously affected” and air links hampered.
Continued build-up of Russian troops on three Ukrainian flanks
UK tells nationals in Ukraine not to expect military evacuationBritish nationals who choose to stay in Ukraine should not expect a military evacuation if conflict with Russia breaks out, junior defence minister James Heappey told Sky News on Saturday.
“British nationals should leave Ukraine immediately by any means possible and they should not expect, as they saw in the summer with Afghanistan, that there would be any possibility of a military evacuation,” he said.
On Friday the UK government advised British nationals to leave Ukraine now while commercial means were still available and advised against all further travel to the country.
Heappey said no decision had yet been made on Britain’s diplomatic presence in Ukraine.
Over 30 Russian ships start drills near CrimeaMore than 30 ships from the Russian Black Sea fleet have started training exercises near the Crimea peninsula as part of wider navy drills, the country’s RIA news agency reported on Saturday.
RIA said that more than 30 Russian ships have left the ports of Sevastopol and Novorossiisk “in accordance to the plans of the drills” near Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
RIA said the aim of the drills was the defence of the coast of Crimea, the outposts of the Black Sea fleet as well as the economy sector and naval communications.
Russia announced last month its navy would stage a sweeping set of exercises involving all its fleets this month and next, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, the latest show of strength in a surge of military activity during the standoff with the West.
Putin to speak to Biden and MacronRussian President Vladimir Putin is set to speak with his US and French counterparts on Saturday after the United States warned that Moscow could invade Ukraine in days.
The United States had dramatically raised the alarm over Ukraine on Friday, saying a Russian invasion starting with civilians caught under aerial bombing could begin in days and telling US citizens to leave within 48 hours.
In a diplomatic flurry to head off a possible invasion, Putin will speak with Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron on Saturday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he will also speak to Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov the same day, terming this “a pivotal moment” in the crisis and that his government was “prepared for whatever should happen.”
“We continue to see very troubling signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving around Ukraine’s borders,” Blinken said at a press conference in Fiji.
“If Russia is genuinely interested in resolving this crisis of its own making through diplomacy and dialogue, we’re prepared to do that,” he said.
US to evacuate Ukraine embassyUSofficials said the State Department plans to announce early Saturday that virtually all American staff at the Kyiv embassy will be required to leave ahead of a feared Russian invasion.
A small number of officials may remain in Kyiv but the vast majority of the almost 200 Americans at the embassy will be sent out or relocated to Ukraine’s far west, near the Polish border, so the UScan retain a diplomatic presence in the country.
The State Department would not comment.
The department had earlier ordered families of USembassy staffers in Kyiv to leave. But it had left it to the discretion of nonessential personnel if they wanted to depart. The new move comes as Washington has ratcheted up its warnings about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly, said a small number of USdiplomats may be relocated to Ukraine’s far west, near the border with Poland, a NATO ally, so the UScould retain a diplomatic presence in the country.
( Jowhar with AP, AFP and AFP)