Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken about the escalating crisis over Ukraine for the first time in more than a month, amid a series of high level talks to avert the threat of war as Russian troops mass by the tens of thousands on the borders of Ukraine.
Putin says Russia is open for more talks with the West on easing tensions over Ukraine. This is despite earlier repeating his claim the US and its allies have ignored Russia’s main security demands.
Putin has been hosting Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban in the Kremlin, telling Orban he would brief him about the talks with the West on Russia’s security demands.
Orban has forged close ties with Putin, putting Hungary — a member of Nato and the European Union — in a unique position. He stressed that no European leader wants a war in the region.
Putin has not spoken about tensions with Ukraine since late December.
The Kremlin also announced that Putin will hold an in-person meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron “in the foreseeable future”.
Ukraine, meanwhile, has announced a new trilateral political alliance with Britain and Poland and a decree expanding the army by 100,000 troops.
Tuesday’s announcements by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy come amid visits by the British and Polish prime ministers, who promised support for Ukraine.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki promised to deliver more weapons to Ukraine, including portable air defence systems, drones, mortars and ammunition. He noted that Russia’s neighbours feel like they are living “next to a volcano”.
The UK said it had seen “no indication of Russia de-escalating” its military buildup near Ukraine, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson flew to Kyiv on Tuesday to meet Zelenskyy.
Zelenskyy’s decree to expanding the country’s army brings the total number of troops to 350,000 in the next three years, and raises army wages.
A top White House cybersecurity official is in Europe meeting US allies to help coordinate efforts to defend against, and respond to, potential cyberattacks launched by Russia against Ukraine and others.
Anne Neuberger, the deputy National Security Adviser for cyber and emerging technology, is travelling to Brussels and Warsaw during a week-long trip to meet Nato allies, senior Biden administration officials said.
The purpose of the trip is to ensure that the US and its allies are prepared for all cyber-related contingencies if the situation in Ukraine were to escalate, officials said.
Russia has launched significant cyberattacks against Ukraine previously and would almost certainly do so again as part of any operation against its neighbour. Such hostile activity against Ukraine could spread far and wide, as the devastating NotPetya attack did in 2017.
The eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv is divided between people who are enthusiastically volunteering to join a civil resistance to a potential Russian invasion and those who just want to live their lives.
Which side wins in Kharkiv, which is Ukraine’s second largest city and is just 40km from where Russian troops are massing, could well determine the fate of the country.
A guerrilla war fought by dentists, coaches and housewives defending a hometown of a 1000 basement shelters would be a nightmare for Russian military planners, according toanalysts and US intelligence officials. And that’s what many people in Kharkiv — and across Ukraine — say they’re planning to do.
“Our generation and our children are ready to defend themselves. This will not be an easy war,” said Maryna Tseluiko, a 40-year-old baker who signed up as a reservist with her 18-year-old daughter in Kyiv.
Russia says the US misinterpreted a request for clarification as their response to an American proposal aimed at de-escalating the Ukraine crisis.
Multiple Biden administration officials had said that the Russian government had provided a written response to the US proposals, but Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko on Tuesday told Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency that this was “not true”.
The agency also cited an unnamed senior diplomat in the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sent a message to his Western colleagues, including US State Secretary Antony Blinken, about “the principle of indivisibility of security”, but said it wasn’t a response to Washington’s proposals.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday that there has been “confusion” — Russia’s response to the US proposals is still in the works, and what was sent “were other considerations on a somewhat different issue”.
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