British envoy heads to Moscow to try to ease Ukraine crisis

MOSCOW — Britain’s top diplomat flew Wednesday to Moscow, seeking to defuse tensions raised by Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine and warning that an invasion would bring “massive consequences for all involved.”

“Russia has a choice here. Before departing for the U.K.’s first trip to Moscow in over four years, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss stated that Russia has a choice.

Russia has massed over 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s border and has launched military maneuvers in the region, but says it has no plans to invade its neighbor. The West must give Ukraine and former Soviet countries assurances that NATO will not accept them as NATO members. It should also ensure that NATO does not deploy weapons there and pulls back troops from Eastern Europe. These demands were flatly rejected by NATO and the U.S.

Western nations say they will impose their toughest-ever sanctions on Russian businesses and individuals if Moscow invades Ukraine.

“Russia must be confident in our ability to respond,” stated Truss. Truss will also meet Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister of Russia during his two-day trip. Truss asked Moscow to adhere to its international agreements, which commits it to Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova again rejected warnings from Washington and its allies of a possible Russian invasion, calling them “absurd.”

“We have no aggressive plans, but I have a feeling that the U.S. does,” she said, adding that Washington’s statements reminded her of the rhetoric before the U.S. war in Iraq.

Several dozen Ukrainians rallied outside the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, urging Washington to use its international clout to prevent a Russian offensive. In recent weeks, Western leaders have been engaged in numerous rounds of high-stakes diplomatic diplomacy to try and deescalate the crisis.

French President Emmanuel Macron held over five hours worth of talks Monday in Moscow with President Vladimir Putin, before meeting in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy the following day.

Macron stated that Putin assured him he wouldn’t initiate an escalation but acknowledged it would take some time for a diplomatic solution.

He later flew to Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Polish President Andrzej Duda, and they urged de-escalation by Russia and that it engage in a meaningful dialogue on European security.

Macron called U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday to discuss his meeting in Moscow with Kyiv. The White House stated that they also discussed ongoing diplomatic efforts to deter Russia and resolve the current crisis.

On Wednesday Jose Manuel Albares, the Spanish Foreign Minister, visited Kyiv in order to meet his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Koleba. Albares said that de-escalation and dialogue should always be priorities. Kuleba urged more sanctions against Russia and said “there is a chance to resolve the crisis through diplomatic means.”

Scholz is expected in Kyiv and Moscow on Feb. 14-15. He met Monday with Biden, who vowed that the Nord Stream 2 Russia-to-Germany gas pipeline will be blocked in the event of an invasion. This would not only harm Russia’s economy but could also create energy supply issues for Germany.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov criticized the U.S. and its allies for turning the Nord Stream 2 “into an instrument of pressure on Moscow” and called recent statements about it “a political circus.”

Japan has decided to divert some of its gas reserves to Europe amid growing concern over possible disruptions of supplies due to the crisis, said Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda. This decision was taken at the request from the United States of America and the European Union.

U.S. and European officials have been coordinating with global natural gas suppliers to cushion the impact in case Russia cuts off natural gas supplies.

NATO has also increased the troop deployment to support the eastern flank of the alliance. The U.S. began to move the 2nd Cavalry Regiment’s stryker unit from Vilseck in Germany to Romania which borders Ukraine. U.S. officials have said they would send about 1,000 NATO troops.

The first troops arrived in Romania in the past 24 hours, said the regiment’s commander, Col. Joe Ewers. The troops will bolster 900 U.S. service members already in the country.

” We are ready to fulfill any mission that is requested,” he stated in Vilseck. “But the focus will be on training and we will initially partner with multiple Romanian elements within the region there.”

About 1,700 U.S. soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division are going to Poland and about half have now arrived, with more expected to flow in during the coming days, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said. Britain also has pledged to send 350 more troops to Poland and already has sent anti-tank weapons to Ukraine.

U.S. The Polish consular service is preparing to handle any American citizens living in Ukraine that may want to flee the country in case of invasion by Russia. According to an unidentified White House official, U.S. soldiers deployed in Poland have created contingency plans for Americans who want to flee Ukraine via Poland in the event of a Russian invasion.

The State Department is still urging Americans living in Ukraine to flee, even if they are not required to, according to

Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a bitter conflict since 2014, when Ukraine’s Kremlin-friendly president was ousted, Moscow annexed Crimea and then backed a separatist insurgency in the east of the country. The fighting between Russia-backed rebels and Ukrainian forces has killed over 14,000 people. Talks about the separatist conflict are scheduled for Thursday in Berlin by foreign policy advisors from Germany and France as well as Russia, Ukraine, and Russia — known collectively under the Normandy format.

France, Germany and Russia helped to broker the Minsk Agreements, which ended massive fighting in eastern Ukraine. However, the deal has not led to a political solution to the conflict and all efforts have been rebuffed to do so. According to the Kremlin, Kyiv has been accused of trying to sabotage the agreement. In recent weeks, Ukrainian officials have stated that it could be detrimental for Ukraine to implement it.

Some European leaders see talks on the accords as a possible way to ease tensions in the larger crisis.

Scholz’s spokesman Wolfgang Buechner said Wednesday that the parties to the talks “reaffirmed their commitment to narrowing current disagreements with a view to moving forward, and that is what tomorrow’s meeting should be about.”

“Germany is strongly and tirelessly committed to the Normandy format, where we have a special responsibility and, together with France, are making a very special contribution to the attempt to de-escalate the situation in and around Ukraine,” he said.

Litvinova reported from Moscow. Aamer Madhani in Washington and Lolita. C. Baldor, in Kyiv, Ukraine. Yuras Karmanau, in Kyiv. Ukraine. Vladimir Isachenkov, in Moscow. Christoph Noelting, in Vilseck. Germany. Kirsten Grieshaber, in Berlin.

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