A sliver of hope: The Kremlin sees a diplomatic route on Ukraine

Monday's Kremlin signals it is open to continuing talks with the West on security grievances that led the current Ukraine crisis.

A sliver of hope: The Kremlin sees a diplomatic route on Ukraine

This gives hope that Russia may not invade its beleaguered neighbor in days, as the U.S. and European allies fear.

However, there are still questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions. In the midst of the worst East-West tensions ever since the Cold War, countries are exiling diplomats and being prepared for an imminent war.

Germany's chancellor, on a last-ditch diplomatic visit, stated that there were "no reasonable reasons" to build up more than 130,000 Russian troops at Ukraine's borders to its north, south, and west. He urged for more dialogue.

The British prime minister stated that Europe is "on edge of a precipice" but said that President Putin should resign. Jean-Yves Le Drian, France's foreign minister, said that all elements were available for a strong Russian offensive but that nothing shows that Putin has made a decision to launch one.
Despite warnings by Washington, London, and other countries that Russian troops could attack Ukraine as early as Wednesday, Monday's meeting of Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested otherwise.

Lavrov suggested that Moscow should have more talks with the U.S., its allies, and despite their refusals to address Russia's most pressing security concerns.

Moscow denies any plans to invade Ukraine. It wants Western assurances that NATO will not allow Ukraine or other ex-Soviet countries to become NATO members. The West has rejected its demands that the alliance stop weapons deployments to Ukraine, and pull back its forces in Eastern Europe.

Lavrov stated that the talks cannot continue indefinitely but suggested that they be continued and expanded at this stage. He noted that Washington had offered to have a dialogue about limits on missile deployments in Europe and restrictions on military drills, as well as other confidence-building measures. Lavrov stated that there are still many possibilities for negotiations.

At a TV camera-controlled appearance, his comments seemed to be intended to convey to the world Putin's position: that is, that there are still hopes for a diplomatic solution.

Putin said that the West could try and draw Russia into "endless negotiations" and asked if there was still any chance of reaching an agreement. Lavrov said that Russia's ministry would not allow the U.S. or its allies to blockade Russia's main demands.

Lavrov's comments were met with cool resistance by the U.S.

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House principal deputy press secretary, stated that diplomacy is still possible if Russia engages constructively. We are however clear-eyed about the prospects for that, given the obvious steps Russia is taking to the ground.

According to U.S. officials, the Russian military was making apparent attacks on Ukraine's borders. According to a U.S. defense official, small numbers of Russian ground units moved out of larger areas of assembly for several days and took up positions near the Ukrainian border. These would be departure points in case Putin invades.

An official spoke under anonymity in order to discuss confidential information that was not publically released. CBS News first reported on the movement.

Over the past 48 hours, satellite images show an increase in Russian military activity in Belarus and Crimea. These include the arrival of fighter-bomber and ground-attack aircraft at forward locations and helicopters. According to Maxar Technologies (a commercial satellite imaging company that has been closely monitoring the Russian buildup, these photos also show ground forces moving into convoy formation from their garrisons.

Oleksiy Danilov, chief of Ukraine's security and defense council, downplayed threat of invasion, but warned of the possibility of "internal instability" by unspecified troops.

After meeting with lawmakers, he stated that "Today we don't see that a large scale offensive by Russia Federation can take place on (Feb. 16th) or the 17th." "We are fully aware of the dangers that exist on the territory of our nation. The situation is under control."

In defiance of hybrid threats, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zilenskyy declared Wednesday a "day for national unity", calling for the country to fly the blue-and yellow flags and to sing the national anthem.

"Our country is stronger than ever today. "It is not the first threat that the strong Ukrainian people have faced," Zelenskyy stated Monday evening in a video address to nation. "We're calm. We're strong. We're together. We are a great nation in a great land."

However, the country is still preparing. Residents of Kyiv received letters from the mayor asking them to "defend your city," while signs were placed in apartments indicating where the nearest bomb shelter was. According to the mayor, there are approximately 4,500 sites like underground parking garages and subway stations.

Dr. Tamara Ugrich stated that she had prepared an emergency bag and stocked up on canned foods and grains.

"I don’t believe in war. But on TV, tension is growing daily and it’s becoming harder and harder for people to remain calm. She said that the more people are told to not panic, the more anxious they become.

Others followed the advice of Ukraine’s leaders to not panic. On Sunday night, street music filled central Maidan Square and people danced. "I feel calm. Alona Buznitskaya, model, said that you should always be prepared for anything.

The German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Ukraine Monday, before going to Moscow to meet Putin in a high-stakes diplomacy foray.

Scholz met Zelenskyy and urged Russia to show de-escalation. He also reiterated unspecified threats against Russia's financial stability if it invades.

Scholz stated that there are no rational reasons to deploy a military force.

Antonio Guterres, U.N. Secretary General, met with Lavrov as well as Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister. He stated in a statement that "abandoning diplomaticy for confrontation isn't a step over an line, it's a dive over and over a cliff."

On Monday, Joe Biden, the US President, spoke by telephone with Boris Johnson (the British Prime Minister) According to a Downing Street statement the two men "agreed there was a critical window for diplomacy" and that Russia should withdraw from its threats to Ukraine.

The U.S. announced that it would close its Kyiv embassy and relocate all staff to Lviv, near the Polish border. Lithuania also moved diplomats' families as well as some non-essential diplomatic workers out of the country.

Zelenskyy stated that it was a mistake for some embassies to move to the west Ukraine. It's their decision but "western Ukraine" doesn't exist. It is united Ukraine. God forbid that something should happen. It (escalation will be everywhere).

NATO's warnings so far have not had any effect. Russia has only increased its troops and weapons in the area and conducted massive drills in Belarus, an ally that also borders Ukraine. The West is concerned that Moscow could use the drills which ran through Sunday to cover an invasion from the North.

This week, one possible exit ramp was revealed: Ukraine's ambassador in the U.K. Vadym Prystaiko pointed out a possibility that Ukraine might abandon its NATO bid. It is an objective written into its constitution if it wanted to avoid war with Russia.

Prystaiko stated that "we might," especially after being threatened, blackmailed and pushed to that conclusion, told BBC Radio 5.

Prystaiko seemed to be resigning Monday from the idea. However, the fact that the issue was brought up at all suggests that it is being considered behind closed doors.

When asked Monday about Ukraine's NATO ambitions, the Ukrainian president was vague and referred to them as a "dream".

Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, said that Russia would be open to such a move.


 

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