Watch live as tensions rise in Kiev amid Russian troops controversy
Russia-backed rebels have said Ukraine government forces have fired mortar shells in four locations on the territory held by them on Thursday, according to reports from Kremlin.
The Ukrainians used mortars, grenade launchers and a machine gun by the representatives of the would-be breakaway territory — the Luhansk People’s Republic, the rebels from Russian side alleged.
This is the first reports of munitions being used in the conflict gripping Europe for more than a month now.
Just hours before, the US officials warned that Russia could use a “false” pretext to take military action and invade Ukraine “at any moment”.
Elsewhere, Nato warned that Russia’s show of force “is the new normal in Europe” and that the bloc’s members are looking to ramp up forces in eastern Europe after seeing no sign of Russian de-escalation.
Nato’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said defense ministers were considering “establishing new NATO battlegroups in central and eastern and southeastern Europe” but added it was “not too late for Russia to step back from the brink of conflict and choose the path of peace”.
Ukraine rebels accuse Kiev government forces of mortar shelling: Report
Russian-backed rebels said their territory in eastern Ukraine came under attack from Kiev government on Thursday after mortars were fired in their region, violating agreements to end the conflict in the region, according to a report by RIA new agency.
Preliminary reports have suggested that mortar shells were fired in four regions in Luhansk People’s Republic.
Arpan Rai17 February 2022 04:41
Russia could use false claims to invade Ukraine, says US
Russia could use false claims about the conflict in Ukraine’s Donbass region — citing reports of mass graves and chemical weapons production — to back its invasion of the former Soviet territory, warned US officials.
Russian officials and media had planted stories in the press that were “entirely untrue”, said US state department spokesperson Ned Price.
“This (the stories being untrue) however has not stopped the Russians from advancing these false claims, to include reports of unmarked mass graves of civilians allegedly killed by Ukrainian armed forces, and statements that the United States or Ukraine are developing biological or chemical weapons … for use in the Russian-controlled territories,” Mr Price said on Wednesday.
Washington is yet to see signs of Russia moving back its troops to bring down the tensions in the European region, the US state department spokesperson said.
Russian forces, he said, were in fact moving into “fighting positions”, contradicting reports coming from Kremlin about troops being sent back to mainland Russia.
Arpan Rai17 February 2022 04:30
Russia added 7,000 more troops on border, says top US official
Russia has added 7,000 more troops to the border region in the recent days, some of which have arrived on Wednesday, a senior US official from Biden administration said without sharing accompanying evidence.
The remark comes at a time West disbelieves Russian statements on reducing military build-up this week, as the Moscow defense ministry officials confirmed that some of its troops have returned to mainland Russia.
Amid the stand-off, Russia has said that it has no plans to invade Kiev as the Western alliance has asked it to reduce arms control and take confidence building steps as it anticipates an attack any time.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken stated the administration’s lack of faith in Russia’s claims.
“There’s what Russia says. And then there’s what Russia does. And we haven’t seen any pullback of its forces,” Mr Blinken said.
“We continue to see critical units moving toward the border, not away from the border.”
Arpan Rai17 February 2022 04:04
Russia ‘likely’ to launch ‘limited’ attack, says Estonia
Nearly 10 battle groups of troops are moving towards the Ukrainian border, fresh Estonian intelligence has said, as West maintains that Russia’ military build-up is not shrinking but building.
Close to 170,000 soldiers are already deployed in positions, said Mikk Marran, director general of the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service.
Attack from Russia would include missile bombardment and the occupation of “key terrain”, Mr Marran said.
“If Russia is successful in Ukraine, it would encourage it to increase pressure on the Baltics in the coming years,” he said.
“The threat of war has become the main policy tool for Putin.”
In a first apparent sign of de-escalation, Russia said it was pulling back troops after exercises in southern and western military districts near Ukraine, backing it up with videos showing tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled artillery units leaving the Crimean peninsula — a region Moscow wrestled control from Ukraine in 2014.
Arpan Rai17 February 2022 03:40
Government should ‘go further’ with Russia sanctions, Keir Starmer urges
Joe Middleton17 February 2022 03:30
ICYMI: Nato to send new battle groups to eastern Europe as Russia fails to deliver de-escalation
NATO is planning the deployment of new combat units to central and southeastern Europe, as it accused Russia of failing to pull troops back from the border with Ukraine.
The move – which could see four “battlegroups” totaling 4,000 troops in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia – would represent the biggest shift in the alliance’s military posture since it set up operations in the Baltic states and Poland in the wake of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
Separately, the UK is sending an additional 900 personnel with tanks and armored vehicles to bolster its existing mission in Estonia as tensions mount over Vladimir Putin’s intentions towards Ukraine.
Our political editor Andrew Woodcock has the details.
Joe Middleton17 February 2022 02:30
Russia sending more vehicles and helicopters to Ukraine border, warns head of UK military intelligence
Russia is still building forces along the border with Ukraine, despite claims from Vladimir Putin that he does not want war, Britain’s head of military intelligence has warned.
Lieutenant General Sir Jim Hockenhull, the Chief of Defense Intelligence, said there have been sightings of additional armored vehicles, helicopters and a field hospital heading to the border.
His stark warning came after Nato defense ministers meeting in Brussels said they had seen no evidence to support Russia’s claims it had begun withdrawing troops to their bases.
Joe Middleton17 February 2022 01:30
Nato gets there in the end, Ben Wallace says, when it comes to take sanctions on Russia
Joe Middleton17 February 2022 00:47
Liz Truss to deliver speech in Ukraine capital warning Putin of ‘pariah status’
Foreign secretary Liz Truss will visit the Ukrainian capital Kiev this week to deliver a speech warning Russia of international “pariah status” if president Vladimir Putin decides on an invasion.
The Foreign Office said Ms Truss will visit Ukraine, Poland and Germany as western diplomatic efforts continue in a bid to deter Russian “aggression” and prevent war in the region.
In her upcoming Kiev speech, the foreign secretary is expected to say: “I urge Russia to take the path of diplomacy. We are ready to talk.”
Joe Middleton17 February 2022 00:06
ICYMI: Ukrainians celebrate Unity Day as Nato warns no signs of Russian de-escalation
Ukrainians raised national flags and played the nation’s anthem on Wednesday to show unity amid reports of a possible Russian invasion that Western leaders say could be imminent.
The yellow and blue banner was displayed outside schools, hospitals and many shops to mark “Unity Day”, a holiday President Volodymyr Zelensky created this week after Russia massed troops near Ukraine’s borders and media reports based on a US intelligence source suggested an invasion could happen today
A 200-metre Ukrainian flag was carried around the Olympic National Sports Complex Stadium in Kiev, marking the day in grand fashion.
Joe Middleton16 February 2022 23:50