NATO has raised the alarm over the Ukraine crisis, warning of “a real risk for a new armed conflict in Europe”, and promised to reinforce its eastern flank.
Speaking on Friday from an airbase in Romania, where the United States has temporarily deployed soldiers, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the Washington-led alliance would consider maintaining a longer-term presence in Eastern Europe in the coming months.
He restored Western powers’ fears of war, which remain heightened as diplomatic efforts to ease tensions falter while Russia keeps more than 100,000 troops stationed near Ukraine and carries out military exercises in Belarus.
Meanwhile, Moscow accused NATO of using the crisis as a “pretext” for increasing its military presence near Russia’s borders.
Here are the latest updates:
How do Ukrainians in Russia feel about the crisis?
Despite fears that President Vladimir Putin may order his troops to roll into Ukraine, Ukrainians remain the largest diaspora in Russia.
According to officials in Kyiv, there were approximately three million Ukrainian citizens living in Russia in 2018, including migrant workers sending remittances back home – and many are palpably pro-Russian. Others, however, have some sympathy for the Ukrainian position.
Read more here.
Olympian flashes sign calling for ‘No War in Ukraine’
A Ukrainian athlete has flashed a small sign reading “No War in Ukraine” to television cameras while competing at the Beijing Olympics.
Skeleton racer Vladyslav Heraskevych’s message was printed on a blue-and-yellow piece of paper, matching the colors of his country’s flag, and delivered as he finished a run.
It is possible that the International Olympic Committee could consider Heraskevych’s act a violation of Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter. That rule, in part, states that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas”.
But it also could fall into a gray area since the sign did not explicitly disrespect an opponent or criticize any political target.
And we have ourselves a statement: Ukraine’s Vladyslav Heraskevych makes his views known after his third run in the men’s skeleton. pic.twitter.com/VR6T9F5xMY
— Mark Dreyer (@DreyerChina) February 11, 2022
Where are Russian troops stationed?
Al Jazeera has put together the following infographic demonstrating where Russia has deployed its forces near the border with Ukraine and in neighboring Belarus.
Ukraine crisis ‘very sensitive’ for Russia-backed breakaway state
Internationally recognized as part of Moldova, Transnistria is home to Russian troops and lies on Ukraine’s border, placing it in a precarious position as tensions continue to rise.
Read more here.
UK’s Wallace says he hopes for diplomatic progress during Moscow visit
British Defense Minister Ben Wallace has told his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu he hopes they can use their meeting in Moscow to resolve a number of issues through diplomacy.
“I hope that by speaking today and starting that relationship, that was at 0 percent, we can resolve a number of the issues that you’ve raised,” Wallace said at the start of the pair’s talks.
“We can address some of the issues raised in Russia’s draft treaty … and we can try and move on to where we can resolve our issues together through diplomacy, through other actions, and through confidence building measures.”
Shoigu had earlier said Moscow’s ties with London were “close to zero and about to cross the zero meridian and go into negative” after a rancorous meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his British counterpart Liz Truss in the Russian capital on Thursday.
Russia to respond soon to US, NATO counterproposals: Report
Russia will respond “in the nearest future” to counterproposals on European security made by the United States and NATO, the Interfax news agency quotes Shoigu as telling Wallace at the outset of their meeting.
Moscow has demanded that the US-headed alliance guarantee that it will never let Ukraine join the bloc. Washington and NATO have flatly refused that request and have sent their own proposals to Russia.
Russia slams ‘disrespectful’ responses from EU, NATO to security questions
Russia’s foreign ministry has dismissed a joint response by NATO and the European Union to its questions on the continent’s security arrangements as disrespectful and lacking substance.
The ministry said Lavrov had asked all member nations of the two blocs about their understanding of the principle of “indivisible security” and expected an individual response from each.
Instead, the Russian foreign minister received replies from the head of NATO and the EU foreign policy chief, to whom he had not addressed his correspondence, the ministry added.
“Such a step cannot be seen as anything other than a sign of diplomatic impoliteness and disrespect for our request,” it said.
NATO using Ukraine crisis as a ‘pretext’ for troop movements, Moscow says
A spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry has accused NATO of using the Ukraine crisis as an excuse to shift troops closer to Russia’s borders.
“NATO continues to increase its presence near the borders of Russia and creates a pretext for this in the form of forcing the situation around Ukraine,” Maria Zakharova wrote on her Telegram channel.
NATO chief warns of ‘real risk’ of war
Stoltenberg says there is a “real risk for a new armed conflict in Europe” as both the alliance and Russia are increasing their troop presences around Ukraine.
“The number of Russian troops are going up, and the warning time is going down,” Stoltenberg told reporters after visiting a Romanian air base near the Black Sea with President Klaus Iohannis.
“We don’t have any certainty, and therefore we continue to reach out to Russia to call on them to deescalate and to engage in good faith in political dialogue with NATO and NATO allies,” he added.
Blinken says Russian invasion could ‘begin at any time’
Russia is now massing yet more troops near Ukraine and an invasion could be launched at any time, perhaps before the end of this month’s Beijing Winter Olympics on February 20, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.
“We’re in a window when an invasion could begin at any time, and to be clear, that includes during the Olympics,” Blinken told a news conference while on a visit to Melbourne for a meeting of foreign ministers from the so-called Quad group, which comprises the US, Australia, Japan and India.
Blinken’s remarks came after commercial satellite images published by a US-based private satellite imagery company, Maxar Technologies, showed new Russian military deployments in several locations in western Russia, Belarus and Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
US President Joe Biden has urged American citizens in Ukraine to leave the country immediately, warning things “could go crazy quickly” there.
Ukrainian FM accuses Russia of trying to strong-arm Kyiv into talks with separatists
Peace talks between Ukraine and Russia failed to reach a breakthrough due to Russia’s insistence that Ukraine should consult directly with separatists in the country’s conflict-hit Donbas region, Ukraine’s foreign minister has said.
Ukrainian and Russian officials met in Berlin on Thursday for discussions mediated by France and Germany on ending the war in eastern Ukraine, which erupted after Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula.
“Russia insists that Ukraine conduct a direct dialogue with the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics,” foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said at a news briefing.
“If Ukraine agrees to this, then the status of Russia will change from being a party to the conflict to the status of being a mediator in the conflict. That is why we do not go for it.”
Berlin talks produced ‘no results’, Kremlin says
The Kremlin says there were “no results” from the meeting of negotiators from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France in efforts to resolve the crisis over Ukraine.
“We all witnessed how yesterday the meeting of political advisors of the Normandy Four ended with absolutely no results,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday, referring to the discussions in Berlin.
Peskov said some diplomats “have problems with reading the very short and extremely clear” text of the 2015 Minsk peace agreement between Kyiv and Moscow, which was aimed at ending the war in eastern Ukraine.
Click here to read more on the troubled deal and why it has now come back into focus.
German minister calls Ukraine situation ‘dicey’, urges diplomacy
Every diplomatic effort must be made to de-escalate the “extremely dicey” situation around Ukraine, Germany’s economy minister says.
Robert Habeck told reporters in Warsaw that Russia would face hard-hitting sanctions if diplomacy failed.
“I say that knowing that every sanction of course has costs in one’s own economy,” he added.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.