Ukrainian president proposes meeting with Putin

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Saturday he wanted to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin to negotiate a solution to the crisis that has seen thousands of Russian troops deployed along Ukraine’s borders.

“I don’t know what the President of the Russian Federation wants, so I suggest a meeting,” Zelenskyy said at the Munich Security Conference.

Meanwhile, Austria, France and Germany are the latest nations to urge their citizens to leave Ukraine, in anticipation of an imminent Russian invasion. Lufthansa, the German airline, also canceled flights to Kiev and Odessa, a Ukrainian Black Sea port.

US President Joe Biden will meet with the National Security Council on Sunday, the White House announced on Saturday, reiterating that “Russia could launch an attack on Ukraine at any time,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

PSAKI said Biden was briefed on Saturday about Vice President Kamala Harris’ meetings at the Munich Security Conference. Harris met with Western leaders Saturday, including NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Zelenskyy.

Putin presided over military drills on Saturday as shelling intensified in eastern Ukraine.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported more than 1,500 ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine on Saturday, the highest number on a single day this year.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Saturday’s drills, which the Kremlin said were previously planned to check readiness, involved drills launching intercontinental ballistic missile submarines, as Putin watched. and the Belarusian President.

“Ready to Strike”

On Saturday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the more than 150,000 Russian troops who have massed on the Ukrainian border “are now ready to strike”, as he spoke to reporters in Lithuania , where Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda called for an increased US troop presence.

At the Munich security conference, Harris warned that Russia’s plan was already underway.

“There is a playbook on Russian aggression, and this playbook is all too familiar to us all. Russia will plead ignorance and innocence. It will create a false pretext for invasion, and it will amass troops and firepower in plain sight,” said Harris, who added that a Russian invasion would trigger sanctions including sweeping financial sanctions and export controls.

She also said the United States would reinforce NATO’s eastern flank as another deterrent to a Russian military invasion.

Speaking at the conference earlier on Saturday, Stoltenberg said Russia, by threatening Ukraine, “will get more NATO” instead of the smaller NATO footprint that Putin says he is seeking.

Stoltenberg also said he sent a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov calling for a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council to avoid conflict in Ukraine. Stoltenberg told the Munich Security Conference that there is no evidence that Russia has withdrawn any of its troops from Ukraine’s borders and that there is a real risk of conflict.

“We are extremely worried because we see that they continue to strengthen, that they continue to prepare. And we have never seen in Europe since the end of the cold war, such a concentration of troops ready for combat “said Stoltenberg.

Ukrainian Zelenskyy met Harris on the sidelines as he sought to rally more military and financial support from Western allies.

As he addressed an audience of senior officials and security experts from around the world, Zelenskyy pushed back against US predictions of an imminent Russian invasion, saying “We don’t think we should panic,” he said. reported Agence France-Presse.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, however, told the BBC that evidence indicates Russia is planning “Europe’s biggest war since 1945”.

New Attacks

Ukraine’s military has accused separatists in two breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine – the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Lugansk – of carrying out a new wave of attacks on Saturday.

The separatists, who also accused the Ukrainian army of carrying out new attacks on Saturday, signed decrees for mass military mobilization. The leader of one of the territories urged all able-bodied men to take up arms against what he called Kiev’s aggression. Regions have also started to evacuate some civilians from border areas.

Biden said the move was the result of Russian misinformation, saying it ‘defied the basic logic’ that Ukrainians would ‘choose this time’ to engage in fighting with more than 150,000 Russian troops on the borders from Ukraine.

Ukraine’s military said two of its soldiers were killed in shelling by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine on Saturday, according to AFP, after initially reporting one death.

If Moscow invades Ukraine, it will be essential for the United States to convince the world that Russia is the aggressor and that it did so without provocation, said Max Bergmann, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, at VOA.

“It was a masterclass from the Biden administration in how to win an information war with Russia,” Bergmann said. “The Biden administration has read the Kremlin’s playbook and it’s exposing Russian disinformation as it comes across it.”

However, Biden is still offering Putin a de-escalation exit ramp, saying diplomacy is “always a possibility.” He said that, based on the “significant intelligence capability” of the United States, he has reason to believe that Putin will always consider the diplomatic option.

Diplomatic channels

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to meet Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in person on February 24.

In the event of an invasion, Western allies must resolve their differences over the timing and severity of sanctions against Moscow. For example, the initial package is unlikely to include Russia’s ban on the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or SWIFT, the system used by 200 countries for international financial transfers.

“We have other tough measures that we can take that our allies and partners are ready to take at the same time as us, and which do not have the same ripple effects,” said Daleep Singh, deputy adviser to the national security for the international economy, who spoke to reporters during Friday’s briefing at the White House. “But we will always monitor these options and revise our judgments over time.”

Singh said the US measures are not designed to reduce Russia’s ability to supply energy to the world, but that it would be “a strategic mistake” for Putin to retaliate against Western sanctions by cutting Russia’s energy supply. Europe.

“Two-thirds of Russia’s exports and half of its budget revenues come from oil and gas, and if Putin were to militarize its energy supply, that would only accelerate the world’s diversification away from Russian energy consumption,” did he declare.

Singh added that Moscow would not be able to replace technology imports from other countries, including China, if Washington also imposed strict export controls which he threatened.

Russian officials denied plans to invade Ukraine, but diplomatic talks with Western officials led to an impasse. Russia demanded that the United States and its allies reject Ukraine’s application for NATO membership.

The West dismissed this as a non-starter, but said it was willing to negotiate with Moscow over missile deployments and troop exercises in Eastern European countries closest to Russia. .

Certain information contained in this report comes from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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