Leader of Germany’s far-Right AfD quits as he is not Right-wing enough

  •  Joe Biden warns president Russia could attack next month
  • Katja Hoyer: Germany’s pacifist rot undermines Nato itself
  • How Europe’s titans of industry became Putin’s puppets
  • Russia considers offer to inspect US missile bases to defuse crisis

Vladimir Putin has warned Emmanuel Macron that the West has ignored Russia’s security concerns over Nato’s expansion, but said he would hold off taking any immediate action. 

The US earlier this week rejected sweeping security demands put to them by Russia, which called on the West to rule out Ukraine joining Nato. However, the US insisted it was offering Russia a “diplomatic path”. 

In a phone-call between the two world leaders on Friday, Mr Putin warned that the stand-off between Russia and Western nations had not been resolved. 

“The US and Nato responses did not take into account Russia’s fundamental concerns including preventing Nato’s expansion and refusing to deploy strike weapons systems near Russia’s borders,” Putin told Macron, according to the Kremlin.

Putin added that the US had “ignored” other key concerns outlined by Russia and had failed to explain how security in Europe could be guaranteed without hurting defence concerns of other countries. 

The Kremlin said the two leaders had spoken at length, with Putin telling Macron he will “carefully” study the US and Nato’s responses “after which he will decide on his further actions”.

Russia has deployed some 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders in recent weeks, prompting warnings from the West of severe consequences should it invade its pro-Western neighbour.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

6:15PM

What we learnt today

Vladimir Putin downplayed the prospects of a Russian invasion into Ukraine in a phone-call with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, but warned that the West had ignored Russia’s security concerns. 

“The US and Nato responses did not take into account Russia’s fundamental concerns including preventing Nato’s expansion and refusing to deploy strike weapons systems near Russia’s borders,” Putin told Macron, according to the Kremlin.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky blasted Western politicians for whipping up a war frenzy, insisting that Ukraine does not “need this panic”. 

He pointed to the need to “stabilise” Ukraine’s already battered economy, as he said he saw no greater threat now than during a similar massing of Russian troops last spring.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said that Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping will spend a “lot of time” discussing security in Europe and the set of demands Moscow has made of the West when they meet for talks next week.

And Liz Truss has reportedly “agreed a date” to visit Moscow within the next two weeks, according to Russia’s foreign minister.

The Foreign Secretary’s visit would be the first to the country since 2017, when Boris Johnson met with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. 

6:01PM

Where Russia’s troops and warships are deployed around Ukraine

5:43PM

Russia blacklists further EU officials 

Russia said on Friday it had banned more European Union officials from entering Russia in response to restrictions imposed on Moscow by Brussels, without disclosing how many people were involved or giving their names.

“The Russian side… decided to expand a reciprocal list of representatives from EU member countries and institutions, who are banned from entering Russia,” the Russian foreign ministry said.

Russia blacklisted the heads of some European private military companies, some members of security services, EU politicians and other officials who are “personally responsible for promoting anti-Russian policies,” the statement read.

The European Commission had no immediate comment on the move.

5:34PM

Zelensky: International move to withdraw diplomats was ‘mistake’

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said the decision by the US, Britain, Australia, Germany and Canada to withdraw some of their diplomats and dependents from Kyiv was a “mistake”.

“Those were redundant steps that didn’t help,” he said.

He also blasted Western politicians for whipping up the war frenzy, saying: “I don’t see the situation now any worse than it was at the peak (of Russia’s military build-up) last spring. I’m not saying there won’t be any escalation. We’ve seen it before, a part of our land has been seized.

“Do we have tanks on the streets? They go around saying: ‘War starts tomorrow.’ It creates panic, panic on the markets, panic in the financial sector. It costs Ukraine a lot.”

4:43PM

West should avoid creating ‘panic’, says Ukrainian president

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky during his news conference in Kyiv Credit: UKRAINE PRESIDENCY/AFP

President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday called on the West to avoid creating “panic” in the face of the Russian troop build-up on Ukraine’s border.

“We don’t need this panic,” he said.

He pointed to the need to “stabilise” Ukraine’s already battered economy, as he insisted he saw no greater threat now than during a similar massing of Russian troops last spring.

“Because of all these signals that tomorrow there will be war, there are signals even from respected leaders of states, they just say that tomorrow there will be war. This is panic – how much does it cost for our state?,” he asked.

“The greatest risk for Ukraine… is the destabilisation of the situation inside the country,” he added.

4:12PM

Putin expressed ‘no offensive plans’, says France 

President Putin expressed “no offensive plans” during talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone-call on Friday, according to a French official.

“President Putin expressed no offensive plans and said he wanted to continue the talks with France and our allies,” the official said, adding that the Russian leader “said very clearly that he did not want confrontation”.

Macron said earlier this week that Russia was behaving as a “power of disequilibrium” in the region, but had also made clear he wanted to speak with Putin.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, said that the “ball is in Putin’s court” in an interview before Macron’s phone-call. 

“It’s up to Vladimir Putin to say if he wants confrontation or consultation. We are ready for consultation. But it still takes two to do it,” he said.

3:40PM

Liz Truss to visit Moscow in ‘next two weeks’

Liz Truss has “agreed a date” to visit Moscow within the next two weeks, Russia’s foreign minister has said.

The Foreign Secretary’s visit would be the first to the country since 2017, when Boris Johnson met with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. The Times reported earlier this month that Ms Truss was planning the trip.

Mr Lavrov has now said that Ms Truss will visit in the next fortnight, according to the Russian news agency Tass. 

“We have already agreed on the date,” he is reported to have said. “It’ll happen in the next two weeks.”

Ms Truss has been forthright in speaking out against Russia’s threatened invasion of Ukraine, and took the unusual step of declassifying intelligence which suggested President Vladimir Putin was plotting to install a pro-Moscow leader as head of the government in Kyiv.

She told the Commons earlier this month that Russia has “no justification whatsoever” for its aggression towards Ukraine.

3:25PM

In pictures: soldiers on the frontline 

Ukraine crisis A Ukrainian solider holds a next generation light anti-tank weapon, supplied by Britain, during drills at Ukraine’s International Peacekeeping Security Centre near Yavoriv, Ukraine Credit: GLEB GARANICH /REUTERS Ukrainian crisis A dog is seen leaping over a Ukrainian trench near Zolote, Ukraine Credit: Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images Ukraine crisis  A Ukrainian solider patrols a trench near Zolote Credit: Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Ukraine crisis A soldier walks along a trench in territory controlled by pro-Russian militants near the village of Spartak Credit: Alexei Alexandrov /AP 3:03PM

Recap: Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping to discuss European security

Russian and Chinese presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping will spend a “lot of time” discussing security in Europe and the set of demands Moscow has made of the West when they meet for talks next week, the Kremlin said on Friday.

Mr Putin will travel to China to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics on Feb 4 against the backdrop of a tense confrontation with the West over Ukraine.

The talks will be closely watched in Washington and elsewhere for clues to the direction of the Russia-China relationship, which has grown closer as both countries’ ties with the West have deteriorated.

“I think this time of course a lot of time will be spent on an exchange of views on international issues, including strategic stability in Europe, security guarantees for Russia, security in Europe and Russia’s dialogue with the United States and NATO, and regional problems,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Mr Putin is set to fill a void left by foreign dignitaries after some Western countries announced they would not send state officials to the Games because of China’s human rights record. Mr Putin has said he opposes diplomatic boycotts.

Russia has cultivated closer ties with China since 2014 when its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine soured relations with the West. 

3:01PM

US and EU pledge cooperation on energy security in Europe

Joe Biden and his European Union counterpart Ursula von der Leyen on Friday pledged to cooperate on guaranteeing Europe’s energy security amid the stand-off triggered by Russia amassing troops at Ukraine’s border.

“The United States and the EU are working jointly towards continued, sufficient, and timely supply of natural gas to the EU from diverse sources across the globe to avoid supply shocks, including those that could result from a further Russian invasion of Ukraine,” they said in a joint statement.

2:35PM

Danish jets arrive in Lithuania to bolster Nato presence

Four Danish F-16 fighter jets have arrived in Lithuania after the country appealed for a greater Nato presence due to Russia’s military build-up, officials said on Friday.

Denmark’s decision to send the jets “comes at just the right time”, Gitanas Nauseda, Lithuania’s president, said at a ceremony at the Baltic state’s northern air base in Siauliai.

The fighter planes will patrol Lithuanian air space until April 1, along with four Polish fighters that have been stationed there since December 1. Several exercises are planned.

The Baltic states feel threatened amid the current tensions between Russia and the West, with Moscow demanding Nato scrap its “enhanced forward presence” in the Baltics and Poland.

“This is an extremely worrying time not just for Lithuania but for all the Nato allies,” Mr Nauseda said. Lithuania is particularly concerned by Russian troop movements in neighbouring Belarus.

The forces there “are many more than during the Zapad military exercises” between Russia and Belarus last year, Arvydas Anusauskas, Lithuania’s defence minister, said.

Denmark also announced earlier this month that it would deploy a frigate with 160 crew to reinforce Nato patrols in the Baltic Sea.

2:14PM

Putin tells Macron that West ignored Russia’s security concerns

Russian President Vladimir Putin told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron Friday that the West had ignored Moscow’s security concerns over NATO expansion, the Kremlin said.

“The US and Nato responses did not take into account Russia’s fundamental concerns including preventing Nato’s expansion and refusing to deploy strike weapons systems near Russia’s borders,” Mr Putin told Mr Macron, according to a readout of their call published by the Kremlin.

Russia earlier sent its strongest signal so far that it is willing to engage with US security proposals and reiterated that it does not want war over Ukraine.

The Kremlin said Mr Putin would closely study the proposals and then decide on further action. 

1:46PM

Germany’s weapon stance ‘encourages Russian aggression’

Ukraine’s defence minister said on Friday Berlin’s reluctance to supply Kyiv with weapons encourages Russian aggression, and suggested Moscow may hope to revive the German Democratic Republic in eastern Germany.

Unlike some of its Nato allies, Germany is not providing Kyiv with arms during its standoff with Russia. The Wall Street Journal also reported last week that Berlin had refused to issue permits for German-origin weapons to be exported from Estonia to Ukraine. 

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov told parliament that Kyiv appreciated Germany’s help in treating wounded soldiers. Berlin has said it will send Ukraine a field hospital and 5,000 helmets.

“But we do not accept the official position (of Germany) regarding the supply of weapons and other decisions that undermine the security of Europe and de facto encourage the aggressor,” he said.

“We warned our Western partners that the Kremlin’s goal is not so much Ukraine as to undermine Nato and the EU.”

1:14PM

Macron speaks to Putin on Ukraine as Paris urges restraint 

French President Emmanuel Macron held crunch talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Ukraine Friday as Paris said it was up to Moscow to show it was serious about defusing tensions.

Mr Macron had announced earlier this week he would hold the telephone talks with Putin in the spirit of a “demanding dialogue” with Russia for clarification over what Moscow’s intentions are on Ukraine.

A French presidential official, who asked not to be named, told AFP that the conversation between the two leaders had taken place. No written statement was issued by the Elysee Palace but reporters were told to expect a briefing later in the day.

Mr Macron had said this week that Russia was behaving as a “power of disequilibrium” in the region but had also made clear he was open to dialogue with Moscow to de-escalate the situation.

His relatively conciliatory tone has contrasted with the more strident rhetoric about the probability of an invasion from France’s Nato allies the UK and United States.

“Now the ball is in Putin’s court,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told RTL radio Friday.

“Does he want to be the one to say that Russia is a power of disequilibrium, or is he ready to show de-escalation?” he asked.

“It’s up to Vladimir Putin to say if he wants confrontation or consultation. We are ready for consultation. But it still takes two to do it,” he said.

12:43PM

Ukrainian officials project calm

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly tried to project calm. Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told parliament Friday that the total number of Russian troops near Ukraine – about 130,000 – is comparable to Moscow’s military buildup in the spring of 2021, when Moscow eventually pulled its forces back after massive military exercises.

“We haven’t observed any events or actions of military character that significantly differ from what was going on last spring,” with the exception of the deployment to Belarus, Mr Reznikov said.

Tanks of the Russian Southern Military District's 150th Rifle Division take part in a military exercise Tanks of the Russian Southern Military District’s 150th Rifle Division take part in a military exercise Credit: Erik Romanenko\\TASS via Getty Images

While concerns rise about an invasion, Ukraine is already beset by conflict.

Following the 2014 ouster of a Kremlin-friendly president in Kyiv, Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backed an insurgency in the country’s eastern industrial heartland.

Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels has killed over 14,000 people, and efforts to reach a settlement have stalled.

12:12PM

Lithuania and Germany in talks on more troops in Lithuania 

Lithuania and Germany are in talks on increasing Germany’s military presence in Lithuania “in light of current events”, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said on Friday.

“We are talking about possibilities to expand, increase the German and the Enhanced Forward Presence forces in Lithuania, as we need to strengthen the eastern flank of Nato in light of the current events”, Mr Nauseda said at the Siauliai air base.

Lithuanian Defence Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said plans are already in place for additional allied troops to come to Lithuania, including where they will be deployed. He did not detail the plans.

“The more aggressive is Russian behaviour, the more allies will be in Lithuania”, said Mr Anusauskas.

11:45AM

Nato response to Russian demands ’embarassing’ 

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, is “embarrassed” for the people who wrote Nato’s response to Russia’s security demands, he has said. 

While the response has not been made public, Mr Lavrov claimed that it was worse than the US’s, which was released at a similar time. 

“Compared to the document we received from Nato, the US response could almost be called a paragon of diplomatic politesse,” he said. 

“Nato’s response was so loaded with ideology, with the exceptionalism and special mission of the alliance that I was a bit embarrassed for the people who wrote that text.”

11:12AM

The latest roundup

Russia has made its most significant indication so far that it doesn’t want war – but made it clear that the Kremlin won’t allow its interests to be “rudely trampled”. 

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said that if it “depends on Russia” there will “be no war”. 

“We also won’t allow our interests to be rudely trampled, to be ignored,” he added. 

Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops near the Ukrainian border as it presses demands for a redrawing of post-Cold War security arrangements in Europe.

They’ve faced condemnation from the West and stern warnings that Russia will face swift and tough economic sanctions if President Vladimir Putin attacks Ukraine.

Ukrainian servicemen of the 24th Brigade are seen outside of Zolote, Ukraine Ukrainian servicemen of the 24th Brigade are seen outside of Zolote, Ukraine Credit: Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Russia has made several demands, including that Nato must pull back its troops from eastern Europe and bar Ukraine from ever joining. 

The US responded to Russia’s demands in writing on Wednesday, repeating its commitment to upholding Nato’s “open-door” policy.

Mr Lavrov said the West was ignoring Russia’s interests but there was at least “something” in the response. 

While the responses have not been made public, both sides have stated they are willing to engage with Moscow on arms control and confidence-building measures.

World leaders, including France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Olaf Sholz, are continuing an open dialogue with the Kremlin.

Mr Macron will seek clarification over Russia’s intentions towards Ukraine in a phone call with Mr Putin on Friday.

10:52AM

Ukraine plays down Russian military deployments 

A top Ukrainian official has sought to play down Russia’s military deployments near Ukraine in a veiled criticism of the White House that described the Russian build-up as a sign of an imminent invasion, reports Nataliya Vasilyeva from Moscow.

Oleskiy Reznikov, Ukraine’s defence minister, told parliament on Friday that the number of troops in Russia’s west and south-west does not give a reason for such an alarm.

“We’re not seeing any actions of military nature that would be significantly different from what was happening last spring,” he said.

Ukrainian intelligence is aware of about 112,000 troops near Ukraine, he said, while Russian troops in the same area reached about 126,000 last spring: “The numbers now and then are similar but the reaction is disproportionate,” he said.

10:25AM

US using Ukraine to stoke tensions with the Kremlin, says Russia 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday said the US was using what he described as the “regime” of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to stoke tensions with Moscow.

Mr Lavrov said Russia should perhaps consider precautionary measures to protect its diplomats in Ukraine. 

The US and Canada are temporarily withdrawing the families of their diplomats in Ukraine due to the Russian military build-up near Ukraine’s borders.

It comes as Mr Lavrov announced that he is set to talk by phone to his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock later on Friday.

Russia is keen for German regulatory authorities to give the green light to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline despite soaring tensions around Ukraine.

9:52AM

In pictures: Ukrainian forces on the frontlines

A Ukrainian soldier stands in a bunker in Marinka, Ukraine A Ukrainian soldier stands in a bunker in Marinka, Ukraine Credit: NYTNS / Redux / eyevine Ukrainian soldiers during small arms training near Volnovakha, Ukraine Ukrainian soldiers during small arms training near Volnovakha, Ukraine Credit: Brendan Hoffman/The New York Times A Ukrainian soldier walks in a trench in Marinka, Ukraine A Ukrainian soldier walks in a trench in Marinka, Ukraine Credit: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times Ukrainian soldiers walk in a trench in the front line city of Marinka, Ukraine Ukrainian soldiers walk in a trench in the front line city of Marinka, Ukraine Credit: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times 9:29AM

How Vladimir Putin’s sanction-proof Moscow leaves the West toothless 

“Massive”, “enormous”, “maximum pain”, “severe”, “immediate”: the West is running out of ways to describe the raft of sanctions being readied if Russia decides to attack using some of the 100,000 troops massed near Ukraine.

With Nato and the US having ruled out sending their own soldiers into Ukraine, economic punishment and restrictions on officials – including, possibly Vladimir Putin – are all they have.

A new package of sanctions could include a ban on Russian banks trading in dollars, banning hi-tech US exports including iPhones to Russia, disconnecting Russia from the Swift bank transfer system and even issuing a travel ban for President Putin.

But Mr Putin is unlikely to be scared; he’s been preparing for it, after all, for years.

Read the full article here.

9:00AM

Ukraine crisis: what to know as tensions rise

The United States and Nato have made no concessions to the main Russian demands to resolve the crisis over Ukraine, including giving Moscow a guarantee that its western neighbor can never join the alliance.

The focus is now on how Russia will respond.

Here are things to know about the international tensions:

  • President Joe Biden warned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday that there is a “distinct possibility” that the Russians could invade in February.

  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the response to their demands from the US – and a similar one from Nato – leaves “little ground for optimism.”

  • He added that “there always are prospects for continuing a dialogue, it’s in the interests of both us and the Americans.”

  • The US Defense Department says troops from at least 10 bases across the country have been put on higher alert for possible deployment to Europe.

  • German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said her government is closely coordinating its policy with its allies, and the range of options Berlin will consider in the event of renewed Russian aggression includes action against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

  • French President Emmanuel Macron continues to push for dialogue with Russia despite signs pointing to a potential war, convinced that diplomacy can still avert conflict.

8:41AM

Russian warships practice artillery firing in Black Sea

Russian warships have been rehearsing shooting at airborne and sea targets during exercises in the Black Sea to the south of Ukraine, the Russian Ministry of Defence said early on Friday.

The exercises involving 20 navy vessels began on Wednesday and are part of a surge of military activity in the region.

The Black Sea drills are expected to wrap up later on Friday.

Russian artillery forces in the southern Rostov region that borders Ukraine have also been practising destroying enemy forces and armoured vehicles with howitzers, the Ministry of Defence said.

The Black Sea drills, part a set of navy exercises taking place in numerous locations this month and next from the Pacific to the Atlantic, also practised sweeping for mines. 

8:22AM

Why might Russia invade Ukraine and what could happen next? 

The White House says President Joe Biden warned Ukraine’s president Thursday that there is a “distinct possibility” Russia could take military action against Ukraine in February.

The Kremlin likewise sounded a grim note, saying it saw “little ground for optimism” in resolving the crisis after the US this week again rejected Russia’s main demands.

Russian officials said dialogue was still possible to end the crisis, but Biden again offered a stark warning amid growing concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin will give the go-ahead for a further invasion of Ukrainian territory in the not-so-distant future.

Here we break down how the crisis reached this point and what could be next. 

Ukrainian servicemen stand in a trench on the front line in the Luhansk area, eastern Ukraine Ukrainian servicemen stand in a trench on the front line in the Luhansk area, eastern Ukraine Credit: Vadim Ghirda/AP 8:04AM

Not ‘too late’ to de-escalate tensions

A UK minister said it is “not too late” for Russian President Vladimir Putin to “de-escalate” tensions on the Ukrainian border, amid international fears of an invasion.

Chris Philp, a minister in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, told Sky News: “We’re deeply concerned that the build-up of Russian troops around the Ukrainian border has reached unprecedented levels – military units from the far east of Russia have moved into that region, something that hasn’t happened for many, many years previously.

“So, I think it is a very serious situation. I think President Biden and our Prime Minister are right to warn President Putin that the consequences if they do invade Ukraine will be very, very serious indeed for Russia in terms of sanctions.

“The Americans made clear yesterday that the Nord Stream 2 pipe would not happen if they invade.

“In the United Kingdom, we are doing everything we can to to support the Ukrainians, including supplying military equipment that would help them – and training that goes with that – to prevent tanks, Russian tanks, from entering Ukrainian territory.

“We are urging Russia to get to the table, to discuss issues that are relevant and to de-escalate the situation. De-escalation is clearly in the interests of all concerned – it is not too late to de-escalate, and that is what now needs to happen.”

7:47AM

Brace for Russian cyber attacks over Ukraine, Britain says

Britain warned businesses on Friday to bolster their defences against possible Russian cyber attacks as the crisis over Ukraine deepened.

 ”UK organisations are being urged to bolster their cyber security resilience in response to the malicious cyber incidents in and around Ukraine,” Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre said.

Britain’s technology minister, Chris Philp, told Times Radio he was concerned about possible cyber attacks.

7:33AM

Disputed reports emerge on Biden’s invasion warning 

Both the US and Ukraine have denied a report by CNN which said Joe Biden had warned his Ukrainian counterpart that Russian invasion was virtually certain, Kyiv would be sacked, and that he should “prepare for impact”. 

The claim was provided by an unnamed Ukrainian official, who said that a call between the leaders lastnight “did not go well”. 

Hours later, Ukraine’s presidential spokesman suggested that the quotes did not come from Ukrainian officials and said they were false. The White House issued a similar statement.

“This is not true. President Biden said that there is a distinct possibility that the Russians could invade Ukraine in February. He has previously said this publicly and we have been warning about this for months. Reports of anything more or different than that are completely false,” Emily Horne, spokesperson for the National Security Council, said. 

“Also, no one said ‘sacked’. The only person who should be ‘sacked’ is the anonymous source who is circulating an inaccurate portrayal of this conversation,” Ms Horne added.

7:21AM

France: dialogue with Russia still possible

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday the situation over Ukraine was very tense but a dialogue with Russia was still possible.

“It is up to Vladimir Putin to say if he wants consultation or confrontation,” Le Drian told RTL radio.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday he would seek clarification over Russia’s intentions towards Ukraine in a phone call with President Vladimir Putin on Friday, amid rising fears of an attack by the Kremlin on its former Soviet republic.

6:15PM

What we learnt today

Vladimir Putin downplayed the prospects of a Russian invasion into Ukraine in a phone-call with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, but warned that the West had ignored Russia’s security concerns. 

“The US and Nato responses did not take into account Russia’s fundamental concerns including preventing Nato’s expansion and refusing to deploy strike weapons systems near Russia’s borders,” Putin told Macron, according to the Kremlin.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky blasted Western politicians for whipping up a war frenzy, insisting that Ukraine does not “need this panic”. 

He pointed to the need to “stabilise” Ukraine’s already battered economy, as he said he saw no greater threat now than during a similar massing of Russian troops last spring.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said that Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping will spend a “lot of time” discussing security in Europe and the set of demands Moscow has made of the West when they meet for talks next week.

And Liz Truss has reportedly “agreed a date” to visit Moscow within the next two weeks, according to Russia’s foreign minister.

The Foreign Secretary’s visit would be the first to the country since 2017, when Boris Johnson met with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. 

6:01PM

Where Russia’s troops and warships are deployed around Ukraine

5:43PM

Russia blacklists further EU officials 

Russia said on Friday it had banned more European Union officials from entering Russia in response to restrictions imposed on Moscow by Brussels, without disclosing how many people were involved or giving their names.

“The Russian side… decided to expand a reciprocal list of representatives from EU member countries and institutions, who are banned from entering Russia,” the Russian foreign ministry said.

Russia blacklisted the heads of some European private military companies, some members of security services, EU politicians and other officials who are “personally responsible for promoting anti-Russian policies,” the statement read.

The European Commission had no immediate comment on the move.

5:34PM

Zelensky: International move to withdraw diplomats was ‘mistake’

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said the decision by the US, Britain, Australia, Germany and Canada to withdraw some of their diplomats and dependents from Kyiv was a “mistake”.

“Those were redundant steps that didn’t help,” he said.

He also blasted Western politicians for whipping up the war frenzy, saying: “I don’t see the situation now any worse than it was at the peak (of Russia’s military build-up) last spring. I’m not saying there won’t be any escalation. We’ve seen it before, a part of our land has been seized.

“Do we have tanks on the streets? They go around saying: ‘War starts tomorrow.’ It creates panic, panic on the markets, panic in the financial sector. It costs Ukraine a lot.”

4:43PM

West should avoid creating ‘panic’, says Ukrainian president

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky during his news conference in Kyiv Credit: UKRAINE PRESIDENCY/AFP

President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday called on the West to avoid creating “panic” in the face of the Russian troop build-up on Ukraine’s border.

“We don’t need this panic,” he said.

He pointed to the need to “stabilise” Ukraine’s already battered economy, as he insisted he saw no greater threat now than during a similar massing of Russian troops last spring.

“Because of all these signals that tomorrow there will be war, there are signals even from respected leaders of states, they just say that tomorrow there will be war. This is panic – how much does it cost for our state?,” he asked.

“The greatest risk for Ukraine… is the destabilisation of the situation inside the country,” he added.

4:12PM

Putin expressed ‘no offensive plans’, says France 

President Putin expressed “no offensive plans” during talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone-call on Friday, according to a French official.

“President Putin expressed no offensive plans and said he wanted to continue the talks with France and our allies,” the official said, adding that the Russian leader “said very clearly that he did not want confrontation”.

Macron said earlier this week that Russia was behaving as a “power of disequilibrium” in the region, but had also made clear he wanted to speak with Putin.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, said that the “ball is in Putin’s court” in an interview before Macron’s phone-call. 

“It’s up to Vladimir Putin to say if he wants confrontation or consultation. We are ready for consultation. But it still takes two to do it,” he said.

3:40PM

Liz Truss to visit Moscow in ‘next two weeks’

Liz Truss has “agreed a date” to visit Moscow within the next two weeks, Russia’s foreign minister has said.

The Foreign Secretary’s visit would be the first to the country since 2017, when Boris Johnson met with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. The Times reported earlier this month that Ms Truss was planning the trip.

Mr Lavrov has now said that Ms Truss will visit in the next fortnight, according to the Russian news agency Tass. 

“We have already agreed on the date,” he is reported to have said. “It’ll happen in the next two weeks.”

Ms Truss has been forthright in speaking out against Russia’s threatened invasion of Ukraine, and took the unusual step of declassifying intelligence which suggested President Vladimir Putin was plotting to install a pro-Moscow leader as head of the government in Kyiv.

She told the Commons earlier this month that Russia has “no justification whatsoever” for its aggression towards Ukraine.

3:25PM

In pictures: soldiers on the frontline 

Ukraine crisis A Ukrainian solider holds a next generation light anti-tank weapon, supplied by Britain, during drills at Ukraine’s International Peacekeeping Security Centre near Yavoriv, Ukraine Credit: GLEB GARANICH /REUTERS Ukrainian crisis A dog is seen leaping over a Ukrainian trench near Zolote, Ukraine Credit: Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images Ukraine crisis  A Ukrainian solider patrols a trench near Zolote Credit: Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Ukraine crisis A soldier walks along a trench in territory controlled by pro-Russian militants near the village of Spartak Credit: Alexei Alexandrov /AP 3:03PM

Recap: Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping to discuss European security

Russian and Chinese presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping will spend a “lot of time” discussing security in Europe and the set of demands Moscow has made of the West when they meet for talks next week, the Kremlin said on Friday.

Mr Putin will travel to China to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics on Feb 4 against the backdrop of a tense confrontation with the West over Ukraine.

The talks will be closely watched in Washington and elsewhere for clues to the direction of the Russia-China relationship, which has grown closer as both countries’ ties with the West have deteriorated.

“I think this time of course a lot of time will be spent on an exchange of views on international issues, including strategic stability in Europe, security guarantees for Russia, security in Europe and Russia’s dialogue with the United States and NATO, and regional problems,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Mr Putin is set to fill a void left by foreign dignitaries after some Western countries announced they would not send state officials to the Games because of China’s human rights record. Mr Putin has said he opposes diplomatic boycotts.

Russia has cultivated closer ties with China since 2014 when its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine soured relations with the West. 

3:01PM

US and EU pledge cooperation on energy security in Europe

Joe Biden and his European Union counterpart Ursula von der Leyen on Friday pledged to cooperate on guaranteeing Europe’s energy security amid the stand-off triggered by Russia amassing troops at Ukraine’s border.

“The United States and the EU are working jointly towards continued, sufficient, and timely supply of natural gas to the EU from diverse sources across the globe to avoid supply shocks, including those that could result from a further Russian invasion of Ukraine,” they said in a joint statement.

2:35PM

Danish jets arrive in Lithuania to bolster Nato presence

Four Danish F-16 fighter jets have arrived in Lithuania after the country appealed for a greater Nato presence due to Russia’s military build-up, officials said on Friday.

Denmark’s decision to send the jets “comes at just the right time”, Gitanas Nauseda, Lithuania’s president, said at a ceremony at the Baltic state’s northern air base in Siauliai.

The fighter planes will patrol Lithuanian air space until April 1, along with four Polish fighters that have been stationed there since December 1. Several exercises are planned.

The Baltic states feel threatened amid the current tensions between Russia and the West, with Moscow demanding Nato scrap its “enhanced forward presence” in the Baltics and Poland.

“This is an extremely worrying time not just for Lithuania but for all the Nato allies,” Mr Nauseda said. Lithuania is particularly concerned by Russian troop movements in neighbouring Belarus.

The forces there “are many more than during the Zapad military exercises” between Russia and Belarus last year, Arvydas Anusauskas, Lithuania’s defence minister, said.

Denmark also announced earlier this month that it would deploy a frigate with 160 crew to reinforce Nato patrols in the Baltic Sea.

2:14PM

Putin tells Macron that West ignored Russia’s security concerns

Russian President Vladimir Putin told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron Friday that the West had ignored Moscow’s security concerns over NATO expansion, the Kremlin said.

“The US and Nato responses did not take into account Russia’s fundamental concerns including preventing Nato’s expansion and refusing to deploy strike weapons systems near Russia’s borders,” Mr Putin told Mr Macron, according to a readout of their call published by the Kremlin.

Russia earlier sent its strongest signal so far that it is willing to engage with US security proposals and reiterated that it does not want war over Ukraine.

The Kremlin said Mr Putin would closely study the proposals and then decide on further action. 

1:46PM

Germany’s weapon stance ‘encourages Russian aggression’

Ukraine’s defence minister said on Friday Berlin’s reluctance to supply Kyiv with weapons encourages Russian aggression, and suggested Moscow may hope to revive the German Democratic Republic in eastern Germany.

Unlike some of its Nato allies, Germany is not providing Kyiv with arms during its standoff with Russia. The Wall Street Journal also reported last week that Berlin had refused to issue permits for German-origin weapons to be exported from Estonia to Ukraine. 

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov told parliament that Kyiv appreciated Germany’s help in treating wounded soldiers. Berlin has said it will send Ukraine a field hospital and 5,000 helmets.

“But we do not accept the official position (of Germany) regarding the supply of weapons and other decisions that undermine the security of Europe and de facto encourage the aggressor,” he said.

“We warned our Western partners that the Kremlin’s goal is not so much Ukraine as to undermine Nato and the EU.”

1:14PM

Macron speaks to Putin on Ukraine as Paris urges restraint 

French President Emmanuel Macron held crunch talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Ukraine Friday as Paris said it was up to Moscow to show it was serious about defusing tensions.

Mr Macron had announced earlier this week he would hold the telephone talks with Putin in the spirit of a “demanding dialogue” with Russia for clarification over what Moscow’s intentions are on Ukraine.

A French presidential official, who asked not to be named, told AFP that the conversation between the two leaders had taken place. No written statement was issued by the Elysee Palace but reporters were told to expect a briefing later in the day.

Mr Macron had said this week that Russia was behaving as a “power of disequilibrium” in the region but had also made clear he was open to dialogue with Moscow to de-escalate the situation.

His relatively conciliatory tone has contrasted with the more strident rhetoric about the probability of an invasion from France’s Nato allies the UK and United States.

“Now the ball is in Putin’s court,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told RTL radio Friday.

“Does he want to be the one to say that Russia is a power of disequilibrium, or is he ready to show de-escalation?” he asked.

“It’s up to Vladimir Putin to say if he wants confrontation or consultation. We are ready for consultation. But it still takes two to do it,” he said.

12:43PM

Ukrainian officials project calm

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly tried to project calm. Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told parliament Friday that the total number of Russian troops near Ukraine – about 130,000 – is comparable to Moscow’s military buildup in the spring of 2021, when Moscow eventually pulled its forces back after massive military exercises.

“We haven’t observed any events or actions of military character that significantly differ from what was going on last spring,” with the exception of the deployment to Belarus, Mr Reznikov said.

Tanks of the Russian Southern Military District's 150th Rifle Division take part in a military exercise Tanks of the Russian Southern Military District’s 150th Rifle Division take part in a military exercise Credit: Erik Romanenko\\TASS via Getty Images

While concerns rise about an invasion, Ukraine is already beset by conflict.

Following the 2014 ouster of a Kremlin-friendly president in Kyiv, Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backed an insurgency in the country’s eastern industrial heartland.

Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels has killed over 14,000 people, and efforts to reach a settlement have stalled.

12:12PM

Lithuania and Germany in talks on more troops in Lithuania 

Lithuania and Germany are in talks on increasing Germany’s military presence in Lithuania “in light of current events”, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said on Friday.

“We are talking about possibilities to expand, increase the German and the Enhanced Forward Presence forces in Lithuania, as we need to strengthen the eastern flank of Nato in light of the current events”, Mr Nauseda said at the Siauliai air base.

Lithuanian Defence Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said plans are already in place for additional allied troops to come to Lithuania, including where they will be deployed. He did not detail the plans.

“The more aggressive is Russian behaviour, the more allies will be in Lithuania”, said Mr Anusauskas.

11:45AM

Nato response to Russian demands ’embarassing’ 

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, is “embarrassed” for the people who wrote Nato’s response to Russia’s security demands, he has said. 

While the response has not been made public, Mr Lavrov claimed that it was worse than the US’s, which was released at a similar time. 

“Compared to the document we received from Nato, the US response could almost be called a paragon of diplomatic politesse,” he said. 

“Nato’s response was so loaded with ideology, with the exceptionalism and special mission of the alliance that I was a bit embarrassed for the people who wrote that text.”

11:12AM

The latest roundup

Russia has made its most significant indication so far that it doesn’t want war – but made it clear that the Kremlin won’t allow its interests to be “rudely trampled”. 

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said that if it “depends on Russia” there will “be no war”. 

“We also won’t allow our interests to be rudely trampled, to be ignored,” he added. 

Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops near the Ukrainian border as it presses demands for a redrawing of post-Cold War security arrangements in Europe.

They’ve faced condemnation from the West and stern warnings that Russia will face swift and tough economic sanctions if President Vladimir Putin attacks Ukraine.

Ukrainian servicemen of the 24th Brigade are seen outside of Zolote, Ukraine Ukrainian servicemen of the 24th Brigade are seen outside of Zolote, Ukraine Credit: Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Russia has made several demands, including that Nato must pull back its troops from eastern Europe and bar Ukraine from ever joining. 

The US responded to Russia’s demands in writing on Wednesday, repeating its commitment to upholding Nato’s “open-door” policy.

Mr Lavrov said the West was ignoring Russia’s interests but there was at least “something” in the response. 

While the responses have not been made public, both sides have stated they are willing to engage with Moscow on arms control and confidence-building measures.

World leaders, including France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Olaf Sholz, are continuing an open dialogue with the Kremlin.

Mr Macron will seek clarification over Russia’s intentions towards Ukraine in a phone call with Mr Putin on Friday.

10:52AM

Ukraine plays down Russian military deployments 

A top Ukrainian official has sought to play down Russia’s military deployments near Ukraine in a veiled criticism of the White House that described the Russian build-up as a sign of an imminent invasion, reports Nataliya Vasilyeva from Moscow.

Oleskiy Reznikov, Ukraine’s defence minister, told parliament on Friday that the number of troops in Russia’s west and south-west does not give a reason for such an alarm.

“We’re not seeing any actions of military nature that would be significantly different from what was happening last spring,” he said.

Ukrainian intelligence is aware of about 112,000 troops near Ukraine, he said, while Russian troops in the same area reached about 126,000 last spring: “The numbers now and then are similar but the reaction is disproportionate,” he said.

10:25AM

US using Ukraine to stoke tensions with the Kremlin, says Russia 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday said the US was using what he described as the “regime” of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to stoke tensions with Moscow.

Mr Lavrov said Russia should perhaps consider precautionary measures to protect its diplomats in Ukraine. 

The US and Canada are temporarily withdrawing the families of their diplomats in Ukraine due to the Russian military build-up near Ukraine’s borders.

It comes as Mr Lavrov announced that he is set to talk by phone to his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock later on Friday.

Russia is keen for German regulatory authorities to give the green light to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline despite soaring tensions around Ukraine.

9:52AM

In pictures: Ukrainian forces on the frontlines

A Ukrainian soldier stands in a bunker in Marinka, Ukraine A Ukrainian soldier stands in a bunker in Marinka, Ukraine Credit: NYTNS / Redux / eyevine Ukrainian soldiers during small arms training near Volnovakha, Ukraine Ukrainian soldiers during small arms training near Volnovakha, Ukraine Credit: Brendan Hoffman/The New York Times A Ukrainian soldier walks in a trench in Marinka, Ukraine A Ukrainian soldier walks in a trench in Marinka, Ukraine Credit: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times Ukrainian soldiers walk in a trench in the front line city of Marinka, Ukraine Ukrainian soldiers walk in a trench in the front line city of Marinka, Ukraine Credit: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times 9:29AM

How Vladimir Putin’s sanction-proof Moscow leaves the West toothless 

“Massive”, “enormous”, “maximum pain”, “severe”, “immediate”: the West is running out of ways to describe the raft of sanctions being readied if Russia decides to attack using some of the 100,000 troops massed near Ukraine.

With Nato and the US having ruled out sending their own soldiers into Ukraine, economic punishment and restrictions on officials – including, possibly Vladimir Putin – are all they have.

A new package of sanctions could include a ban on Russian banks trading in dollars, banning hi-tech US exports including iPhones to Russia, disconnecting Russia from the Swift bank transfer system and even issuing a travel ban for President Putin.

But Mr Putin is unlikely to be scared; he’s been preparing for it, after all, for years.

Read the full article here.

9:00AM

Ukraine crisis: what to know as tensions rise

The United States and Nato have made no concessions to the main Russian demands to resolve the crisis over Ukraine, including giving Moscow a guarantee that its western neighbor can never join the alliance.

The focus is now on how Russia will respond.

Here are things to know about the international tensions:

  • President Joe Biden warned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday that there is a “distinct possibility” that the Russians could invade in February.

  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the response to their demands from the US – and a similar one from Nato – leaves “little ground for optimism.”

  • He added that “there always are prospects for continuing a dialogue, it’s in the interests of both us and the Americans.”

  • The US Defense Department says troops from at least 10 bases across the country have been put on higher alert for possible deployment to Europe.

  • German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said her government is closely coordinating its policy with its allies, and the range of options Berlin will consider in the event of renewed Russian aggression includes action against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

  • French President Emmanuel Macron continues to push for dialogue with Russia despite signs pointing to a potential war, convinced that diplomacy can still avert conflict.

8:41AM

Russian warships practice artillery firing in Black Sea

Russian warships have been rehearsing shooting at airborne and sea targets during exercises in the Black Sea to the south of Ukraine, the Russian Ministry of Defence said early on Friday.

The exercises involving 20 navy vessels began on Wednesday and are part of a surge of military activity in the region.

The Black Sea drills are expected to wrap up later on Friday.

Russian artillery forces in the southern Rostov region that borders Ukraine have also been practising destroying enemy forces and armoured vehicles with howitzers, the Ministry of Defence said.

The Black Sea drills, part a set of navy exercises taking place in numerous locations this month and next from the Pacific to the Atlantic, also practised sweeping for mines. 

8:22AM

Why might Russia invade Ukraine and what could happen next? 

The White House says President Joe Biden warned Ukraine’s president Thursday that there is a “distinct possibility” Russia could take military action against Ukraine in February.

The Kremlin likewise sounded a grim note, saying it saw “little ground for optimism” in resolving the crisis after the US this week again rejected Russia’s main demands.

Russian officials said dialogue was still possible to end the crisis, but Biden again offered a stark warning amid growing concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin will give the go-ahead for a further invasion of Ukrainian territory in the not-so-distant future.

Here we break down how the crisis reached this point and what could be next. 

Ukrainian servicemen stand in a trench on the front line in the Luhansk area, eastern Ukraine Ukrainian servicemen stand in a trench on the front line in the Luhansk area, eastern Ukraine Credit: Vadim Ghirda/AP 8:04AM

Not ‘too late’ to de-escalate tensions

A UK minister said it is “not too late” for Russian President Vladimir Putin to “de-escalate” tensions on the Ukrainian border, amid international fears of an invasion.

Chris Philp, a minister in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, told Sky News: “We’re deeply concerned that the build-up of Russian troops around the Ukrainian border has reached unprecedented levels – military units from the far east of Russia have moved into that region, something that hasn’t happened for many, many years previously.

“So, I think it is a very serious situation. I think President Biden and our Prime Minister are right to warn President Putin that the consequences if they do invade Ukraine will be very, very serious indeed for Russia in terms of sanctions.

“The Americans made clear yesterday that the Nord Stream 2 pipe would not happen if they invade.

“In the United Kingdom, we are doing everything we can to to support the Ukrainians, including supplying military equipment that would help them – and training that goes with that – to prevent tanks, Russian tanks, from entering Ukrainian territory.

“We are urging Russia to get to the table, to discuss issues that are relevant and to de-escalate the situation. De-escalation is clearly in the interests of all concerned – it is not too late to de-escalate, and that is what now needs to happen.”

7:47AM

Brace for Russian cyber attacks over Ukraine, Britain says

Britain warned businesses on Friday to bolster their defences against possible Russian cyber attacks as the crisis over Ukraine deepened.

 ”UK organisations are being urged to bolster their cyber security resilience in response to the malicious cyber incidents in and around Ukraine,” Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre said.

Britain’s technology minister, Chris Philp, told Times Radio he was concerned about possible cyber attacks.

7:33AM

Disputed reports emerge on Biden’s invasion warning 

Both the US and Ukraine have denied a report by CNN which said Joe Biden had warned his Ukrainian counterpart that Russian invasion was virtually certain, Kyiv would be sacked, and that he should “prepare for impact”. 

The claim was provided by an unnamed Ukrainian official, who said that a call between the leaders lastnight “did not go well”. 

Hours later, Ukraine’s presidential spokesman suggested that the quotes did not come from Ukrainian officials and said they were false. The White House issued a similar statement.

“This is not true. President Biden said that there is a distinct possibility that the Russians could invade Ukraine in February. He has previously said this publicly and we have been warning about this for months. Reports of anything more or different than that are completely false,” Emily Horne, spokesperson for the National Security Council, said. 

“Also, no one said ‘sacked’. The only person who should be ‘sacked’ is the anonymous source who is circulating an inaccurate portrayal of this conversation,” Ms Horne added.

7:21AM

France: dialogue with Russia still possible

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday the situation over Ukraine was very tense but a dialogue with Russia was still possible.

“It is up to Vladimir Putin to say if he wants consultation or confrontation,” Le Drian told RTL radio.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday he would seek clarification over Russia’s intentions towards Ukraine in a phone call with President Vladimir Putin on Friday, amid rising fears of an attack by the Kremlin on its former Soviet republic.

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