- Washington says the door to diplomacy remains open.
- Russia calls US invasion warnings “hysteria”.
- US OSCE observers begin to leave eastern Ukraine.
- Germany Scholz in Kiev on Monday, Moscow on Tuesday.
WASHINGTON/KYIV: The United States said on Sunday that Russia could invade Ukraine “any day” and create a surprising pretext for an attack, as the German chancellor this week prepared to hold talks with President Vladimir Putin to try to alleviate the crisis.
Washington has said the door has remained open for diplomacy, but it has also repeatedly said that the Russian military, which has gathered more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine, stands ready to intervene.
Moscow has denied such plans and has called comments “hysteria”, but no breakthrough that could alleviate the crisis has emerged in recent days from high-level talks between top Russian and Western officials.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called on Russia to de-escalate on the eve of his trip that will take him to Kiev on Monday and Moscow on Tuesday. A German official said Berlin did not expect “concrete results” but said diplomacy was important.
Scholz warned of sanctions if Moscow invaded.
“We can’t predict the day perfectly, but we’ve been saying for a while now that we’re sitting in the window and any moment an invasion could begin – a major military action could begin – by Russia in Ukraine,” the National Security Council said. of the White House. Advisor Jake Sullivan told: CNN†
Sullivan said Washington would continue to share intelligence with the world to deny Moscow the ability to stage a startling “false flag” operation that could provide a pretext for an attack.
US officials said they could not confirm reports that US intelligence indicated that Russia planned to invade on Wednesday.
US President Joe Biden, who will speak with Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Sunday, said in an appeal to Putin on Saturday that the West would respond decisively to any invasion and that such an attack would harm and isolate Moscow.
A senior US government official said Biden’s appeal was substantive, but there was no fundamental change.
The Kremlin said Putin had told Biden that Washington had failed to address Russia’s key concerns and had not received a “substantial response” to key elements of its security demands.
Putin wants guarantees from the United States and NATO, including blocking Ukraine’s accession to NATO, refraining from placing missiles near Russia’s borders and reducing NATO’s military infrastructure in Europe to the level of 1997.
Washington views many of the proposals as non-starters, but has urged the Kremlin to discuss them with Washington and its European allies.
“The diplomatic path remains open. The way for Moscow to show that it wants to go down that path is simple. It must de-escalate rather than escalate,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said after holding talks on Saturday. waged with Asian allies. †
Washington on Saturday ordered most of its embassy personnel to leave Ukraine immediately. The European allies and others have also scaled back or evacuated personnel from their Kiev missions and urged civilians to leave or avoid travel to Ukraine.
US officials from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) began to depart by car from the rebel city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, a Reuters witness said.
The OSCE is conducting operations in Ukraine, including a civilian monitoring mission in Russian-backed, self-declared separatist republics in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where a war that broke out in 2014 has killed more than 14,000 people.
Amid the tension, Dutch airline KLM said it would stop flying to Ukraine and Germany’s Lufthansa said it is considering suspending flights.
An adviser to the Ukrainian presidency, Mykhailo Podolyak, said Kiev had no intention of closing its airspace regardless of the airlines’ choice, as such a move would resemble “some sort of partial blockade”.
A French presidency official said on Saturday, after President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Putin, there was no indication of what the Russian leader said was Russia preparing an offensive.
But the official said Paris remained “extremely vigilant”.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace warned not to put too much hope in the talks, saying there was “a whiff of Munich in the air from some in the West”, citing a 1938 pact that was not included in the deal. succeeded in putting a stop to German expansionism under Adolf Hitler.
“The worrying thing is that, despite the tremendous amount of increased diplomacy, that military build-up has continued,” Wallace said. The Sunday Times of London†