Ukraine crisis: Russian invasion could start at ‘any time’, White House warns – live updates | World news

Vladimir Putin has suggested it is still not too late for dialogue over Ukraine, as the world continues to be left guessing whether the Russian president is on the brink of invading his neighbor or whether his military buildup is a negotiating ploy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photograph: SPUTNIK/Reuters

In a meeting in the Kremlin, the foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told Putin he believed there was still room for dialogue on Russian requests for a new security deal with the west, which have been made as Russia amassed 140,000 troops around Ukraine’s borders in recent weeks.

“It seems to me that our possibilities are far from being exhausted. They certainly should not continue indefinitely. But at this stage I would suggest that they continue and be intensified,” Lavrov told Putin.

Putin, who has taken to holding meetings with extreme social distancing owing to a fear of contracting Covid, gave his assent from the other end of an extremely long table.

The footage released from the meeting appeared carefully choreographed to send a message about Kremlin thinking.

“We warn against endless conversations on issues that need to be resolved today. Still, as the foreign minister, I should say that there is always a chance,” said Lavrov.

At the same time, a senior Russian diplomat told the Guardian that Russia would be within its rights to “counterattack” against Ukraine if it felt Kyiv was threatening the population of eastern Ukraine.

“We will not invade Ukraine unless we are provoked to do that,” said Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the EU, in an interview in Brussels.

“If the Ukrainians launch an attack against Russia, you shouldn’t be surprised if we counterattack. Or, if they start blatantly killing Russian citizens anywhere – Donbas or wherever,” he said.

Donbas is the region of eastern Ukraine where Russia has armed and funded an insurgency since 2014 and where the Kremlin has handed out hundreds of thousands of Russian passports. In January, US officials briefed journalists on intelligence they claimed showed that Russia was preparing a “false flag” incident that could be used as a pretext for an intervention.

Full report here.






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