Russia opens door to diplomacy in Ukraine standoff

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu at the Kremlin, in Moscow on February 14, 2022. AFP
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a gathering with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on the Kremlin, in Moscow on February 14, 2022. AFP

MOSCOW: Russia appeared to open the door Monday to a diplomatic decision of the deepening Ukraine standoff, as the USA stated it believed Vladimir Putin had but to make a ultimate determination on invading the ex-Soviet state.

Whereas Russia stated it was ending some navy drills, signalling a doable easing of the disaster, in Washington the alert degree remained excessive — with a high official calling the specter of invasion “extra actual than ever earlier than.”

As hypothesis mounted that Russian troops massed on the Ukraine border may launch an assault this week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was due in Moscow on Tuesday for talks with the Russian president — the most recent in a sequence of visits by European leaders geared toward avoiding a full-blown battle.

Earlier guests have been given brief shrift by the Russian chief and his high aides, who’ve persistently argued that the present disaster is the results of the USA and western Europe ignoring Moscow’s legit safety issues.

However a fastidiously choreographed assembly Monday between Putin and his international minister, Sergei Lavrov, appeared to sign a change in tone, with the latter stressing there was “at all times an opportunity” for settlement with the West over Ukraine.

Exchanges with leaders in European capitals and Washington confirmed sufficient of a gap for progress on Russia’s targets to be value pursuing, he instructed Putin.

“I’d counsel persevering with,” Lavrov stated in televised remarks. “High quality,” Putin replied.

On the United Nations, Secretary-Normal Antonio Guterres insisted “there isn’t any different to diplomacy,” and warned that abandoning such an method in favour of confrontation would equate to “a dive over a cliff.”

Because the Russian remarks had been seized on by some as providing hope of a de-escalation, the Pentagon stated Moscow’s forces on the border with Ukraine had been nonetheless rising, “to effectively north of 100,000.”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby stated Washington nonetheless didn’t imagine Moscow had made a ultimate determination on whether or not to invade.

However the USA stated it was becoming a member of different nations in relocating its Kyiv embassy to the western metropolis of Lviv, in gentle of the “dramatic acceleration” of the buildup.

“It’s a distinct risk, maybe extra actual than ever earlier than, that Russia might resolve to proceed with navy motion, with new Russian forces persevering with to reach on the Ukrainian border,” State Division spokesman Ned Value instructed reporters.

Scholz to Moscow

As Western intelligence officers warned that Wednesday may mark the beginning of an invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared to dismiss the suggestion in a video tackle to the nation saying the day can be marked as “Unity Day.”

“They inform us that February 16 would be the day of the invasion. We are going to make this into Unity Day,” Zelensky stated — urging his fellow countrymen to fly the nationwide flag in defiance.

Western leaders take into account the Russian troop build-up to be the worst menace to the continent’s safety because the Chilly Struggle, and have ready a crippling package deal of financial sanctions in response to any assault on Ukraine — though Moscow has repeatedly stated it has no such plans.

Current Russian navy workouts, together with with Belarus, the place the US stated Moscow had dispatched 30,000 troops for greater than per week of drills, additional raised issues — though Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu instructed Putin Monday that a number of the drills had been “ending.”

Throughout a information convention in Kyiv with Zelensky, Scholz stated there was “no cheap justification” for the build-up of troops, vowing Berlin and its allies would preserve help for Ukraine’s safety and independence.

Talking alongside Scholz, Zelensky in the meantime repeated that becoming a member of the NATO alliance would assure Ukraine’s survival — a key sticking level in negotiations between Russia and the West.

However as he ready to go to Moscow, Scholz appealed to Russia to take up “affords of dialogue.”

Germany already performs a central position in efforts to mediate in jap Ukraine, the place a gruelling battle with Russian-backed separatists has claimed greater than 14,000 lives.

Germany’s shut enterprise relations with Moscow and heavy reliance on Russian pure gasoline imports have nonetheless been a supply of lingering concern for Kyiv’s pro-Western leaders and US President Joe Biden’s administration.

‘Digging trenches’

Whereas ready for diplomacy to bear fruit, on the entrance line separating Kyiv-held territory from areas managed by Moscow-backed insurgents within the east, underprivileged youngsters within the care of church teams had been serving to with battle preparations.

“We’re digging trenches that Ukrainian troopers may rapidly bounce into and defend in case the Russians assault,” 15-year-old Mykhailo Anopa instructed AFP.

In Moscow, Russians confirmed no urge for food for battle.

“Folks within the West don’t perceive that we’re one folks,” Pavel Kuleshov, a 65-year-old pensioner, instructed AFP, referring to Russians and Ukrainians. “No one needs a civil battle.”

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