Crisis in Russia and Ukraine: live updates

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine — With fears growing of war in Europe, President Biden prepared to call NATO allies together on Friday to discuss the threat to Ukraine, and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin plans to preside over military drills on Saturday that will include some of the country’s most powerful weapons.

Mr. Biden’s urgent diplomacy and Mr. Putin’s show of force illustrated the spiral of tensions between Russia and the West, which threatens to escalate into full conflict. Fighting escalated Thursday along a shaky front line between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, the type of situation the Biden administration says Moscow could use as a pretext to launch a wider invasion.

The Biden administration has said it believes Russia is set to invade Ukraine within days. Although Moscow insists it has no such plans, it has pledged to mount “a tough response” if the United States and its NATO partners do not reduce their presence in Europe by ballast.

In a show of force, Russia will carry out major exercises this weekend that will include launching ballistic and cruise missiles, the country’s defense ministry said, according to the Interfax news agency.

The Russian exercises will involve the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which has participated in large-scale exercises in the border region of Ukraine. Mr Putin will attend, the Kremlin said, presiding over them from a “situation center”.

Although the drills were planned in advance and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry S. Peskov denied they were intended to escalate tensions, they come at a critical time in the deadlock on Ukraine.

President Biden’s Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, on Friday repeated US warnings that more than 150,000 Russian troops deployed near Ukraine’s borders were preparing to launch a major attack.

“Although Russia has announced that it is bringing its forces back to garrisons, we have not seen that yet,” he told a press conference on Friday alongside his Polish counterpart in Warsaw. “In fact, we are seeing more forces moving into this border region.”

Russian or Russian-

military supported

positions as of February 13

approximate line

separating Ukrainian

and supported by Russia

separatist forces.

Russian or supported by Russia

military posts as of February 13

approximate line

separating Ukrainian

and supported by Russia

separatist forces.

As high-level diplomacy continues to compete with military maneuvers, an uneasy calm settled in eastern Ukraine early Friday after a night punctuated by explosions and bursts of gunfire in as many as 30 villages and towns along a 250-mile strip of land separating Ukraine and Russian-backed forces. Although periodic exchanges of gunfire were not uncommon in the harsh eight-year trench warfare, this violence was on an increased scale.

As events unfold, officials in Russia, the United States and Ukraine attempt to shape the narrative.

US officials said they were “watching closely” for fear that Russia could use the violence in eastern Ukraine as a pretext to invade Ukraine. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday that Russia planned to “fabricate a pretext for its attack”, possibly with a “so-called terrorist attack” or “a fake or even a real attack” with chemicals. weapons.

Residents of Ukrainian government-controlled areas have stocked up on food and other supplies, and the country’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on Friday sought to reassure residents of territory held by Russian-backed separatists that they faced no threat from government forces. .

He told the Ukrainian parliament that he had traveled the area, urging people not to believe Russian propaganda that the Ukrainian government was going to attack them. His message, he said, was “Have no fear” and “Ukraine is not your enemy”.

Russia has blamed Kiev for the escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry S. Peskov on Friday called recent events “very disturbing news”. .

“It’s potentially very dangerous,” he said.

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