Latest Ukraine updates: US says Putin increasing military options – Al Jazeera English

Ukraine news from February 14: Russia’s Putin is adding more military force and capability near Ukraine’s borders everyday, Pentagon spokesman says.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is adding more military force and capability near Ukraine’s border with each passing day, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby has said.
“This is a military that, that continues to grow stronger, continues to grow more ready. They’re exercising, so we believe that he has a lot of capabilities and options available to him should he want to use military force,” Kirby told MSNBC in an interview on Monday.
“We believe that he has a lot of capabilities and options available to him. Should he want to use military force and as we said, it could happen any day,” he said.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom’s foreign minister said Russia could invade Ukraine “at any moment”, citing the latest intelligence seen by London.
“Latest information suggests Russia could invade at any moment and we urge the Kremlin to deescalate,” Liz Truss tweeted.
The comments come in the face of spiralling tensions with Moscow, which has massed an estimated 100,000 soldiers and advanced weapons around Ukraine’s borders.
This live blog is now closed, thanks for joining us. Here are the updates for February 14.

France’s foreign minister has said that everything was in place for Russian forces to invade quickly in Ukraine, adding that Europe was ready to impose huge sanctions if it happened.
“If the question is are there elements in pace so that there is a major offensive by Russian forces in Ukraine, then yes it’s true. It’s possible and quickly,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told France 5 TV.
He said the assessment was shared by Paris and its allies, although he said nothing indicated that Russian President Vladimir Putin had made that decision.
“It’s blowing hot and cold,” he said, suggesting that Russia was leaving the door open for dialogue.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will depart tomorrow to visit Belgium, Lithuania and Poland, the Pentagon has said.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said he would meet leaders in each of the countries along with US troops in Poland. In Brussels, Austin will meet with NATO allies.
“The secretary is leaving tomorrow morning for Brussels. We’ll have to see how things play out,” he said.
Kirby added the United States did not believe Russian President Vladimir Putin had made a final decision to invade Ukraine, but that he could move with little or no warning and has continued to add to his capabilities along the countries’ shared border.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden agreed there was a crucial window for diplomacy and a chance for Russia to step back and avert disaster in Ukraine, Johnson’s office has said after a call between the leaders.
“They agreed there remained a crucial window for diplomacy and for Russia to step back from its threats towards Ukraine,” a Downing Street spokesperson said in a statement after the call.
“The leaders emphasised that any further incursion into Ukraine would result in a protracted crisis for Russia, with far reaching damage for both Russia and the world.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has declared Wednesday – the day US officials warn might mark the start of a feared Russian invasion of the ex-Soviet state – national “unity day”.
“They tell us that February 16 will be the day of the invasion. We will make this into Unity Day. I have signed the corresponding decree,” Zelenskyy said in a national address.

The United States is relocating its embassy operations in Ukraine from the capital Kyiv to the western city of Lviv, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said, citing the “dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces”.
Blinken said in a statement the decision was taken out of concern for the safety of embassy staff. Most embassy staff have already been ordered to depart Ukraine and US citizens have been advised to leave the country.
“My team and I constantly review the security situation to determine when prudence dictates a change in posture,” Blinken said, adding that Washington would continue working for a diplomatic solution to the tensions.
Embassy operations were being temporarily moved to Lviv – roughly 50 miles from Ukraine’s western border with Poland – but the embassy would remain engaged with the Ukrainian government in Kyiv, Blinken said.

Russian mercenaries with ties to Moscow’s spies have increased their presence in Ukraine in recent weeks, three senior Western security sources have said.
They said their concerns had strengthened in recent weeks that a Russian incursion into Ukraine could be preceded by an information war and cyberattacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure such as electricity and gas networks.
Russia could also use the mercenaries to sow discord and paralyse Ukraine through targeted assassinations and the use of specialised weaponry, the sources said.
“It is likely that Russian mercenaries, under the direction of the Russian state, will be involved in any hostilities in Ukraine, potentially including a pretext for an invasion,” said one Western security source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Russia’s Putin is adding more military force and capability near Ukraine’s border with each passing day, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby has told MSNBC in an interview.
“This is a military that, that continues to grow stronger, continues to grow more ready. They’re exercising, so we believe that he has a lot of capabilities and options available to him should he want to use military force,” Kirby said.
“We believe that he has a lot of capabilities and options available to him. Should he want to use military force and as we said, it could happen any day,” he said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke separately with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, a UN spokesman has said.
Guterres expressed “serious concern” to both ministers over the heightened tensions and “welcomed the ongoing diplomatic discussions to defuse those tensions and underlined, yet again, the fact that there is no alternative to diplomacy,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and ‍Bjoern Seibert, the chief of staff for European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, discussed diplomatic efforts to urge Russia to de-escalate and choose diplomacy in a call about the situation in Ukraine, the State Department has said.
Sherman and Seibert reiterated that further escalation would be met with massive, coordinated consequences and severe costs for Russia, the State Department said in a statement.

Latvian state-owned airline airBaltic has scheduled two additional flights from Kyiv to Latvian capital Riga to cope with demand.
The flights, on Tuesday and Wednesday, are scheduled “to address the significant passenger demand”, the airline said in a statement. “AirBaltic is continuously evaluating the current situation and … is flexible and ready to adjust its flight schedule if necessary,” the statement said.
The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday took to Twitter to advise its nationals still in Ukraine to “use this opportunity”.

Ukraine is open to a Vatican mediation of its conflict with Russia and wants Pope Francis to visit as soon as possible, even in the current situation, Kyiv’s new ambassador to the Holy See has said.
Speaking to Reuters news agency in a telephone interview from Kyiv, Andriy Yurash, said the Vatican was considering its response to invitations from both political and Catholic Church officials in Ukraine for a visit.
“As I understand it, the Vatican would be ready and happy to create this possibility for meeting leaders from both sides,” said Yurash, the former head of the Department on Religious Affairs and Nationalities at Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture.
“Ukraine is completely in favour of [using] this very influential, very spiritual place for a meeting. If Russia confirms its will to sit at the table, immediately Ukraine will respond in a positive way,” he said.

The World Bank is temporarily relocating staff from Ukraine and has suspended staff missions to the country due to the tensions on the border between Russia and Ukraine, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters news agency.
The World Bank said it was closely monitoring the situation and its operations were continuing in Ukraine.
“The World Bank Group’s foremost priority is to keep our staff and their families safe. In line with our evacuation policy, temporary relocation of staff is underway and enhanced security measures are in place,” the memo said.

Czech Airlines has added three flights from Kyiv to Prague to its schedule this week and next, a spokeswoman said.
She said the flights had previously been cancelled for business reasons but have been restored because of rising demand. The airline’s website listed daily flights from Kyiv to Prague between Monday and the end of February.

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy has declared that joining the NATO alliance would guarantee his country’s survival, defending an ambition that has enraged his powerful Russian neighbour.
“We understand that NATO membership would ensure our security and our territorial integrity,” Zelensky told reporters at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Scholz has called on Russia to accept the West’s pursuit of talks to ease tensions over Ukraine.
Scholz told reporters in Kyiv there was “no reasonable justification” for the Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s borders and urged Moscow “to take up the existing offers of dialogue”.

An additional eight F-15 fighter jets from the United States have landed in Poland, the country’s defence minister says.
“More American F-15 fighters landed today at the base in Lask,” Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on Twitter. “Eight aircraft will join those that came to Poland last week.”

The United Kingdom’s foreign minister has said Russia could invade Ukraine “at any moment”, citing the latest intelligence seen by London.
“Latest information suggests Russia could invade at any moment and we urge the Kremlin to deescalate,” Liz Truss tweeted following a meeting of the government’s crisis response committee (COBR).
“Our focus is on prioritising the safety and security of British nationals in Ukraine,” she added.
Today I chaired a COBR meeting on the serious Russian threat to Ukraine.
Latest information suggests Russia could invade at any moment and we urge the Kremlin to deescalate.
Our focus is on prioritising the safety and security of British nationals in Ukraine.
— Liz Truss (@trussliz) February 14, 2022

Ukraine will continue to pursue its ambition of joining NATO, Zelenskyy has said.
“Today, many journalists and many leaders are hinting a little to Ukraine that it is possible not to take risks, not to constantly raise the issue of future membership in the alliance, because these risks are associated with the reaction of the Russian Federation,” the Ukrainian president told reporters following his talks with Scholz.
“I believe that we should move along the path we have chosen,” he added.

Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, reporting from Kyiv, says Scholz delivered a “show of unity” with Kyiv during his visit to the Ukrainian capital.
“Both [Scholz and Zelenskyy] spoke about the importance of supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the German chancellor also said he would be bringing a warning to Russia when he visits Moscow on Tuesday and meets Putin,” she said.
“He will be telling Putin that any invasion or attack on Ukraine would be met with very severe consequences and that all Western powers were agreed on that.”

Scholz says he is “determined” to maintain aid to Ukraine amid the mounting tensions with Russia.
The German chancellor told reporters following his talks with Zelenskky that “no country in the world” had offered more economic assistance in the last eight years – following Moscow’s early 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula – to Ukraine than Germany.
He said the more than $2bn in aid provided by Berlin had made Kyiv “more resilient and independent against foreign influence”.
“I can assure you that we are determined to continue this support,” Scholz added.

Putin has approved, in principle, the Russian foreign ministry’s responses to the West on security guarantees that Moscow is seeking, the country’s RIA Novosti news agency cites the Kremlin as saying.
Russian diplomats were now finalising the text of the responses, RIA reported.

Ukraine’s defence minister has hailed what he called a “positive” round of talks with his Belarusian counterpart, aimed at deflating tensions stoked by Russian-Belarus military drills.
“We discussed our agenda and determined our future steps. I view this as a positive signal and a first step toward fruitful cooperation,” Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said in a statement.

Countries in Eastern Europe are making preparations for potentially hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Ukraine if the crisis with Russia escalates, with some Polish towns already listing places available and Romania considering refugee camps.
Poland said it was preparing for a worst-case scenario. Romania, which also shares a long border with Ukraine, has meanwhile finalised an action plan, Interior Minister Lucian Bode told private television station B1. Hungary is also making preparations.
Slovakia’s defence minister has said that there may be tens of thousands of refugees even under a limited conflict.
The Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have also said they were readying to accept refugees.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says he has spoken to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the functioning of an international observer mission that monitors the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has for years monitored fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatist forces but recently some of its staff have left the area amid growing concerns over the tensions.
“We also discussed the functioning of SMM OSCE. Ukraine is interested in it being fully operational,” Kuleba said in a tweet after his phone call with Blinken.
Another call with @SecBlinken. We keep actively coordinating efforts to protect Ukraine. Grateful to the U.S. for the decision to provide Ukraine with macro-financial assistance. We also discussed the functioning of SMM OSCE. Ukraine is interested in it being fully operational.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) February 14, 2022

Greece’s foreign ministry says two Greek expatriates were killed and another two seriously injured in an incident involving Ukrainian soldiers in the country’s conflict-hit east.
The ministry said in a statement that three Ukrainian soldiers were “responsible” for the deaths and injuries to the four Greeks in the village of Hranitne, which sits close to the “line of contact” with the pro-Russian separatist forces who seized a swathe of territory in the Donbas region in early 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
It said the violence erupted after the Greeks and Ukrainian soldiers got into an argument “for an insignificant reason”. It did not say what the Greeks were doing in the area but a Greek foreign ministry official was quoted by Reuters as saying the incident had nothing to do with the ongoing conflict in the region.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has told President Vladimir Putin that some of the country’s military drills had already ended and others were coming to a close.
Russia’s joint exercises with ally Belarus and other drills near Ukraine have fanned fears Russia may be poised to invade its neighbour.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has suggested to Putin that Moscow should continue along the diplomatic path in its efforts to extract security guarantees from the West.
He told the Russian president during a televised meeting between the pair that the US had put forward concrete proposals on reducing military risks, but said responses from the European Union and NATO military alliance had not been satisfactory.
Moscow wants NATO to guarantee that Ukraine will never be permitted to become a member and for the military alliance to cease all military activity in Eastern Europe. Those demands have been flatly rejected by both the alliance and the US.
INTERACTIVE- NATO members in Europe expand eastwards

Belarus’ defence minister has held a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart aimed at restoring an atmosphere of dialogue between the two countries and ensuring security in the region, according to the country’s defence ministry.
The ministry said the officials had discussed the ongoing drills being staged by Belarus and Russia, as well as exercises being conducted by Ukraine, and expressed confidence that neither side’s activities posed a security threat to the other.
Kyiv confirmed the call had taken place, describing it as a positive signal and a first step towards cooperation.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman says the UK has seen no sign that Russia will de-escalate the crisis and warns there is a “grave possibility” that Moscow could launch an invasion this week.
“We have seen no signs so far that Russia will back down. There are more than 130,000 Russian troops on the border of Ukraine, and we are gravely concerned,” the spokesman said.
“There is a grave possibility of an invasion this week.”

Lawmakers from Russia’s ruling United Russia party have proposed a draft resolution to seek the foreign ministry’s view on whether to call for the recognition of two breakaway Ukrainian regions as independent, the Russian parliament’s database shows.
The State Duma, Russia’s lower house, is due to discuss the proposal later. The final resolution would then be sent to Putin.
Formal recognition of the east Ukrainian regions controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014 – the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) – would further inflame tensions between Moscow and Kyiv.

A German military aircraft carrying troop reinforcements has landed in Lithuania, the first of several planned NATO deployments aimed at reinforcing the alliance’s eastern flank.
The A400M plane carried around 70 soldiers of what is expected to grow to a 360-strong German deployment, which comes on top of existing NATO forces in the region, a spokesperson for the alliance’s enhanced forward presence battlegroup said.
The new deployments include reconnaissance and artillery troops and medics from units throughout Germany, as well as around 100 howitzers and other vehicles, with arrivals expected to continue throughout this week.
“It’s a strong signal that Germany is willing and capable of reinforcing the battlegroup immediately as needed,” Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Andrae, German commander of the NATO troops in Lithuania, told reporters. He added the soldiers “will stay as long as they are needed”.

Airlines have stayed clear of eastern Ukraine since July 2014, when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down in the region. And now, as tensions rise with Russia, carriers are limiting their time spent in all Ukrainian airspace, or avoiding it altogether.
Al Jazeera has put together a series of infographics that explain the implications of the standoff between Kyiv and Moscow for aviation. Take a look here.

Ukraine has faced significant challenges since winning independence in 1991.
For a timeline of developments, click here.
INTERACTIVE- Ukraine/Russia Political Leadership since 1991 graphic

Russia will not take part in an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) meeting scheduled for later today, RIA cites diplomat Konstantin Gavrilov as saying.
The meeting was requested by the Baltic states – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – and will concern “unusual military activity” in Belarus, where Moscow and Minsk are staging war games.

The finance ministers of the G7 group of large Western economies have warned Russia it will face “massive” economic consequences should it invade Ukraine and promised to support the latter’s economy in the event of an attack.
“The ongoing Russian military build-up at Ukraine’s borders is a cause for grave concern. We, the G7 Finance Ministers, underline our readiness to act swiftly and decisively to support the Ukrainian economy,” they wrote in a joint statement.
“Any further military aggression by Russia against Ukraine will be met with a swift, coordinated and forceful response,” the ministers added, warning Moscow of “economic and financial sanctions which will have massive and immediate consequences on the Russian economy”.
The G7 is comprised of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US.

The Russian government has decided to not send a representative to this year’s Munich Security Conference, according to the chair of the event, Wolfgang Ischinger.
The conference, known as “Davos for defence”, begins on Friday and will bring together the world’s defence and security elite.
Read more on the event here.

Tensions over the Ukraine-Russia crisis have been simmering for months, with diplomatic efforts to resolve the situation showing little sign of progress.
Here is a timeline of the main events so far.

Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Moscow, says there has been no response from any Russian officials to Ukraine’s request for an urgent meeting.
“But we do expect the Polish foreign minister [Zbigniew Rau] to arrive in the Russian capital later on Monday,” she said. “He is the chairman of the OSCE … and so his trip will really be an important one and will possibly address the concerns that Ukraine has raised.”
Jabbari added that Russia had always said “moving their own troops within their own territories is very much … just for their own security and that they do not have to explain that to anybody”.

Greece’s foreign ministry has issued an advisory urging Greek nationals in Ukraine to leave the country “immediately”.
Athens’s move follows similar action by other Western states and came after the US warned that Russia could invade Ukraine at any time.

Kuleba has said Moscow failed to respond after Kyiv on Friday invoked a part of the Vienna Document, a set of security agreements, to demand Russia explain its military activities.
“Consequently, we take the next step. We request a meeting with Russia and all participating states within 48 hours to discuss its reinforcement & redeployment along our border & in temporarily occupied Crimea,” he tweeted on Sunday. There was no immediate response from Moscow.
The 1990 Vienna Document requires the 57 members of the OSCE to share information about their military forces and notify each other about major activities.
If Russia is serious when it talks about the indivisibility of security in the OSCE space, it must fulfill its commitment to military transparency in order to de-escalate tensions and enhance security for all 2/2
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) February 13, 2022

Al Jazeera’s Butler, reporting from Kyiv, says Scholz “believes that diplomacy is still possible to avert a war on European soil”.
“He will be meeting with Zelenskyy … and the two will talk about the situation, which is very tense indeed, and discuss the possibility of Germany offering more financial aid to Ukraine,” she said.
“But there has been some frustration amongst some Ukrainian officials with Germany over Berlin’s refusal to offer any weapons to Ukraine so that is also likely to come up in today’s discussions.”
The two leaders are expected to hold a joint news conference at 12:00 GMT, following their talks.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK has clarified earlier remarks about possibly dropping a bid for NATO membership, saying that the former Soviet republic would not be reconsidering its attempt to join the military alliance.
“We are not a member of NATO right now and to avoid war we are ready for many concessions and that is what we are doing in conversations with the Russians,” Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko told the BBC in English. “It has nothing to do with NATO which is enshrined in the constitution.”
Prystaiko had earlier told the BBC that Kyiv was willing to be “flexible” over its goal to join the transatlantic military alliance, a move Putin has said would be a trigger for war.

Russia has massed an estimated 100,000 soldiers and advanced weapons around Ukraine.
Al Jazeera has put together the following infographic demonstrating where Moscow has positioned its forces near the two countries’ shared border and in neighbouring Belarus, where Russia is staging joint military exercises with its ally.
INTERACTIVE- Where are Russian troops stationed?

China’s embassy in Ukraine is operating as normal, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin has said.
Wang told a daily news briefing that the embassy will continue to provide consular protection for its citizens and has issued a notice asking Chinese nationals to closely monitor the situation on the ground.
Several Western countries have withdrawn staff from their embassies in Kyiv in recent days, with many of them also urging their citizens to leave Ukraine immediately.

Relations between Moscow and Washington are “lying on the floor”, the Kremlin says.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RIA there were certain channels for dialogue, noting that Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden have been in contact – the two spoke by phone on Saturday – but that ties in other areas were strained.
“The heads of state are in dialogue, there is dialogue on other fronts,” Peskov said. “But on the rest, unfortunately, in bilateral relations one can only talk about negatives. We are at a very, very low point.”

Ukraine could drop its bid to join NATO to avoid war with Russia, the country’s ambassador to the UK has said, in what would amount to a major concession to Moscow in response to Russia’s military build-up.
Prystaiko told the BBC that Ukraine was willing to be “flexible” over its goal to join the transatlantic military alliance.
“We might – especially being threatened like that, blackmailed by that, and pushed to it,” he was quoted as saying.
Responding to the ambassador’s comments, Zelenskyy’s spokesman said Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO and the European Union are envisaged in its constitution and remain the absolute priority to the country.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has landed in Kyiv before visiting Moscow on Tuesday.
The visit follows that of French President Emmanuel Macron last week, as Russian troops mass on Ukraine’s borders.
“In the event of a military aggression against Ukraine that threatens its territorial integrity and sovereignty, that will lead to tough sanctions that we have carefully prepared and which we can immediately put into force,” Scholz said before his departure.

Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, has said an invasion could begin “any day now”.
“We cannot perfectly predict the day, but we have now been saying for some time that we are in the window,” Sullivan told CNN on Sunday.
Coun­tries in­clud­ing Poland, Ro­ma­nia brace for po­ten­tial ar­rival of thou­sands from Ukraine amid ten­sions with Rus­sia.
Air­lines have stayed clear of east­ern Ukraine since 2014 af­ter MH17 was shot down.
The US will re­spond ‘swift­ly and de­ci­sive­ly’ against Russ­ian ag­gres­sion, US pres­i­dent tells his Ukrain­ian coun­ter­part.
Months of diplo­ma­cy have failed to re­solve the cri­sis, as fear grows over an im­mi­nent Russ­ian in­va­sion of Ukraine.
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