WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Russia has deployed more than 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine and stepped up military exercises in the region.
Moscow denies it is planning an attack, but the United States and its NATO allies fear that Russia is planning a war and are preparing on their own.
Here’s what you need to know about international tensions over Ukraine, a Cold War-like crisis.
WHAT IS RUSSIA’S LAST ACTION?
Russia stepped up pressure on the West, warning that it would quickly “retaliate” if the US and its allies rejected its security demands and continued its “aggressive” policy toward Ukraine.
Russia has demanded guarantees that NATO will never accept Ukraine and other former Soviet countries as members, and that the alliance will scale back its deployment of troops to other countries of the former Soviet bloc, a region that Moscow still considers to be its area of interest.
Some demands, such as the membership pledge, keep NATO off the ground, creating a seemingly unresolvable stalemate that many fear can only end in war.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he and other senior officials would advise President Vladimir Putin on the next steps after receiving written responses from the United States to the demands. Those responses are expected this week – although the US and its allies have already made it clear that they will reject Russia’s basic demands.
WHAT DO UKRAINIAN LEADERS SAY?
Ukrainian officials tried to calm nerves as tensions escalated.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Wednesday that while the concentration of Russian troops near Ukraine poses a threat, “their numbers are currently insufficient for a large-scale offensive.”
“They still lack some key military elements and systems to carry out a major full-scale offensive,” Kuleba told reporters.
He also noted that anxiety can be an end in itself. According to him, Russia hopes to destabilize Ukraine by “sowing panic, increasing pressure on the financial system of Ukraine and launching cyberattacks.”
WHAT IS THE MOOD ON THE UKRAINIAN FRONT LINE?
Soldiers and civilians in eastern Ukraine wait helplessly for the war to begin.
They understand that their fate is decided by politicians in distant capitals. Even politicians in their own capital, Kiev, have been sidelined by several rounds of high-stakes diplomacy that have so far failed to produce a breakthrough.
The battle-weary region has been fighting pro-Russian separatists since 2014. It’s an area close to where Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops in a troop buildup that US President Joe Biden has said could lead to the biggest invasion since World War II. .
WHAT IS HAPPENING ON THE DIPLOMATIC FRONT?
Presidential advisers from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France are holding diplomatic talks in Paris amid growing fears that Russia could invade Ukraine.
The talks are taking place in the so-called Normandy format, which helped dampen hostilities in 2015, a year after Putin ordered the annexation of the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula and a Russian-backed insurgency began in eastern Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow expects a “good frank” conversation from the Paris meeting.
Several rounds of high-stakes diplomacy have failed to produce any breakthroughs, and tensions have escalated further this week.
WHAT IS THE BRITAIN SAYING?
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss urged European countries to do more to support Ukraine, saying “we would like our allies to do more to provide defensive support to Ukraine.”
The UK has sent anti-tank weapons to Ukraine in response to Russia’s troop buildup near its border. He ruled out sending combat troops, but Truss said the UK “doesn’t rule anything out in terms of sanctions”.
“In fact, we will pass laws to tighten our sanctions regime and make sure that we are fully able to strike both individuals and companies and banks in Russia in the event of an invasion,” she told the BBC. -si.
“It is important that all of our allies do the same, because by collective action, by demonstrating to Vladimir Putin that we are united, we will help deter the Russian invasion.”
WHAT IS GERMANY DOING?
Among NATO allies, Germany in particular has faced calls to help Ukraine more and has been accused of considering its economic ties with Russia more important than Ukraine’s security.
Against this background, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said that Germany would supply Ukraine with 5,000 military helmets at the request of the country’s embassy. She said it was “a very clear signal that we are on your side”.
The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany welcomed the planned delivery of the helmets, but called it a “purely symbolic gesture.” Andrei Melnik told the German news agency dpa that “it’s just a drop in the ocean.”
He added that “Ukraine expects a 180-degree turn from the German government, a real paradigm shift.”
Germany has declared that it will not supply lethal weapons to Ukraine.
However, German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbock said on Wednesday that the common goal of the European Union in the Ukrainian crisis “was and remains to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
WHAT IS POPE FRANCIS SAYING?
Pope Francis prayed that political leaders would put aside personal interests and allow dialogue to prevail amid fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On Wednesday, Francis began a one-day prayer for peace in Ukraine with a special address at the end of his weekly general audience. “Please, never more wars,” Francis said.
“May our prayer and calls to heaven touch the hearts and minds of those in charge on Earth so that they lead to the prevalence of dialogue and that the good of all is placed above the interests of one side,” he said. “Let us persistently ask the Lord that on this earth the brotherhood could overcome wounds, fears and differences.”
Noting that Thursday is Holocaust Remembrance Day, Francis said Ukrainians suffered horrific atrocities during World War II.
“They deserve peace,” he said.