Russia’s foreign minister has said Russia does not want a war after Washington warned Moscow may invade Ukraine next month.
Sergey Lavrov told Russian media on Friday that the Kremlin was not seeking conflict with Kyiv, but restated Moscow would not allow its security interests to be ignored.
“There won’t be a war as far as it depends on the Russian Federation, we don’t want a war,” he said in a live interview with Russian radio stations.
On Thursday, the United States and NATO responded to Russia’s sweeping security demands that were raised in December after Moscow built up troops near the border with Ukraine. Primarily, Russia wants NATO to commit to permanently blocking Ukraine from becoming a member of the alliance.
Russia said the replies gave it little cause for optimism because there was “no positive response to the main question”, but could serve as a starting point for talks on “secondary questions”.
Here are all the latest updates:
NATO chief says alliance on alert over Russian activity in Belarus
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance is ready to increase its troop presence in eastern Europe and is watching very closely as Russia moves soldiers and weapons in Belarus.
Stoltenberg, speaking online from Brussels at a Washington, DC, think-tank event, said Moscow was deploying thousands of combat-ready troops, aircraft and S-400 weapon systems into its neighbour.
“From the NATO side we are ready to engage in political dialogue. But we’re also ready to respond if Russia chooses an armed conflict confrontation,” Stoltenberg said. He added the alliance was not planning to deploy combat-ready troops to Ukraine, however.
Putin says US, NATO responses did not address Moscow’s main concerns: Kremlin
The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron during a phone call between the pair that responses to Russia’s security demands delivered by the US and NATO did not address Moscow’s principal concerns.
“The US and NATO responses did not take into account Russia’s fundamental concerns including preventing NATO’s expansion and refusing to deploy strike weapons systems near Russia’s borders,” Putin told Macron, according to a readout of their call published by the Kremlin.
The pair’s talks lasted for about an hour.
Why is Turkey trying to mediate the Ukraine-Russia crisis?
Turkey is hoping to play a mediating role between Moscow and Kyiv, as well as the latter’s Western allies.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to meet with his counterparts on both sides of the crisis in the coming weeks.
Read more on Ankara’s diplomacy play here.
The Ukraine-Russia crisis explained in infographics
Al Jazeera has put together eight infographics explaining the history, politics and economics of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.
Have a look here.
Analyst weighs Russia’s possible invasion routes
Andreas Krieg, an associate professor in the defence studies department at King’s College London, says any Russian invasion of Ukraine will carry “a lot of risks for casualties on both sides”.
“In the land warfare domain, particularly on Ukraine’s eastern and northern flanks, it is very well defended, especially after receiving training and supplies from the West since 2014,” Krieg told Al Jazeera, citing Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and backing of a separatist uprising in Ukraine’s east.
“But there is a weak underbelly towards the south, with Crimea being occupied by Russia, and there is a possibility of the Russians using their advantage in the naval space or in the airpower space,” he added.
Macron, Putin spoke for about an hour: AJ correspondent
Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, reporting from Paris, says Macron and Putin’s phone call lasted for about an hour.
She added Macron’s office was expected to brief reporters on the pair’s discussion shortly.
Germany’s spy chief says Moscow yet to make final decision on Ukraine invasion
Russia is prepared to attack Ukraine but has not yet decided whether to do so, the head of Germany’s foreign intelligence service (BND) has said.
“I believe that the decision to attack has not yet been made,” Bruno Kahl told Reuters in an interview.
“The crisis can develop in thousands of ways,” he added, listing scenarios including moves to destabilise the government in Kyiv or to support separatists in the east and push the demarcation line forward as possible scenarios.
Kahl declined to comment on whether and what sanctions should be taken against Russia in the event of an attack, but he supported Germany’s approach of keeping Moscow in the dark about what moves it might have in store. “That’s what Putin does,” he said.
What exactly did Lavrov say?
- Lavrov has said there will be no war “as far as it depends on the Russian Federation”.
- “We don’t want a war … But we won’t let our interests be rudely trampled on and ignored,” he told Russian radio stations.
- Moscow’s top diplomat also echoed the Kremlin’s suggestion on Thursday that the responses received from the US and NATO offered little ground for optimism, though he added, without giving details, that the US counter-proposals were better than NATO’s.
- “While they say they won’t change their positions, we won’t change ours,” he said. “I don’t see any room for compromise here.”
- Lavrov said he expected to meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken again in the next couple of weeks.
What is Russia’s problem with NATO?
Al Jazeera asked Maxim Suchkov, a non-resident expert at the Moscow-headquartered Russian International Affairs Council, to explain Russia’s issues with NATO. Take a look at his response in the video below.
Lithuania discussing hosting more German troops with Berlin
Vilnius and Berlin are holding talks concerning increasing Germany’s military presence in Lithuania, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has said.
“We are talking about possibilities to expand, increase the German and the Enhanced Forward Presence forces in Lithuania, as we need to strengthen the eastern flank of NATO in light of the current events,” Nauseda said at the Siauliai air base.
Macron to push for “more transparency from Moscow”
Al Jazeera’s Butler, reporting from Paris, says Macron has two aims for his call with Putin on Friday.
“The first is to use his powers of personal persuasion to convince Putin to follow the path of diplomacy and not that of conflict,” she said.
“And Macron is also trying to ascertain from Putin exactly what Russia’s intentions are on the border with Ukraine, with its buildup of troops there, and to push for more transparency from Moscow.”
Russian incursion would unleash ‘devastating consequences’, Amnesty warns
Global rights group Amnesty International warns any escalation of the existing conflict in eastern Ukraine, where Kyiv has been fighting Russian-backed separatists since 2014, will have “devastating consequences for human rights in the region”.
An uptick in violence would threaten “civilian lives, livelihoods and infrastructure”, Amnesty warned in a statement, and drive acute food shortages as well as a potential mass displacement of people.
“The consequences of actual military force are likely to be devastating. Ukraine’s recent history is punctuated by conflicts involving Russian troops in Donbas and the illegal annexation of Crimea,” said Amnesty Secretary-General Agnès Callamard, citing the war in Ukraine’s east and Russia’s 2014 seizure of the Crimean peninsula.
“These episodes have torn communities and lives apart, as military forces have trampled on the rights of civilians with impunity; it’s time to break that vicious cycle,” she added.
#Ukraine’s recent history is punctuated by conflicts involving Russian troops in Donbas & illegal annexation of Crimea. These episodes have torn lives apart. Another escalation of conflict will have devastating consequences for human rights in the region. https://t.co/YeVv5yfBmt
— Amnesty International (@amnesty) January 28, 2022
Sanctions only a part of Western response if Moscow orders invasion: US envoy
US Ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan has said that economic sanctions on Russia would be just one part of the West’s response if the Russian military were to invade Ukraine.
Sullivan told an online briefing that other measures would include export controls and greater defence of allies in Europe and would prevent the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany from operating.
He also said the size of the Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s borders would allow an invasion with little warning.
A simple guide to the Ukraine-Russia crisis
The Russia-Ukraine standoff has been marked by dizzying developments and pinball rhetoric between Moscow and the West. To help you get to grips with the crisis, Al Jazeera has put together a simple explainer.
Have a look here.
Russia’s Putin, China’s Xi to focus talks on European security: Kremlin
The Kremlin says upcoming talks between Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will mostly focus on European security and Russia’s dialogue with NATO and the US.
Putin will travel to China next month for the discussions and to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the two leaders will talk about trade and space as well as the security issues.
Peskov also said that Putin may give his assessment of the US and NATO responses to Russia’s security demands during a phone call with Macron later on Friday.
Lavrov, Germany’s Baerbock to speak by phone: Report
Lavrov will talk by phone to his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock later today, Russia’s Interfax news agency reports.
Russia is keen for German regulatory authorities to give the green light to the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline despite the Ukraine crisis.
Read more on the long-touted energy infrastructure project here.
War only possible if Belarus or Russia attacked: Lukashenko
Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has said that Minsk has absolutely no interest in a war and that conflict will only break out if Belarus or its close ally Russia are directly attacked.
Lukashenko made the remarks in a speech to legislators and officials. Moscow and Minsk are set to hold joint drills in Belarus to the north of Ukraine next month.
The Belarusian leader said the drills would help Minsk understand where it needed to concentrate forces and that Belarus had to protect its southern flank with Ukraine.
British billionaire rallies business leaders to support sanctions on Russia
British billionaire Richard Branson has weighed in on the Ukraine crisis, warning any invasion by Moscow would have “devastating and terrible consequences” and calling for business leaders to “come together and stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty”.
“Even if it comes at a price, all of us should send a clear message that unilateral aggression is always unacceptable and that the global business community will support the full range of sanctions against any nation that seeks to violate the sovereignty of another,” he said in a statement.
My thoughts on Ukraine and Russia https://t.co/5qVaHCOwg7
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) January 27, 2022
Hungary to seek more Russian gas, Orban says
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said he will seek to increase the amount of gas his country receives from Russia when he holds talks with Putin next week.
“I would like to achieve at our talks that in the current difficult situation burdened with higher energy prices … the amount of gas available to us over the long run should be increased,” Orban told public radio.
Hungary, a member of the European Union and NATO, agreed a new long-term gas supply agreement with Russia’s Gazprom in August.
Orban, who faces what is expected to be a close-fought election on April 3, has dismissed calls from a unified opposition to cancel his visit to Moscow, scheduled for Tuesday.
Macron to seek clarity on Putin’s intentions, French FM says
Macron will try to assess whether Putin wants “consultations or confrontation” over Ukraine when they speak by phone, France’s foreign minister has said.
Speaking to RTL radio, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the West still considered dialogue possible, but the ball was in Putin’s court.
“It is up to Vladimir Putin to say if he wants consultations or confrontation,” Le Drian told RTL radio, asking whether the Russian leader wanted to be a “destabilising power” or would seek deescalation.
Russian warships practice artillery firing in Black Sea
Russian warships have been rehearsing shooting at airborne and sea targets during exercises in the Black Sea to the south of Ukraine, the Russian ministry of defence has said.
The exercises involving 20 navy vessels began on Wednesday and are expected to wrap up on Friday.
They are part of a set of navy exercises taking place in numerous locations this month and next from the Pacific to the Atlantic.
Brace for Russian cyberattacks, UK warns businesses
The United Kingdom has told domestic organisations to bolster their defences against possible Russian cyberattacks as the Ukraine crisis rumbles on.
The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said it was appealing to companies and organisations to tighten their security in response to “malicious cyber incidents in and around Ukraine”.
A cyberattack on Ukraine earlier this month warned Ukrainians to “be afraid and expect the worst”. Ukraine said Moscow was behind the attack, but the Kremlin denied any involvement in the incident.