Latest Russia-Ukraine updates: US says Putin may face sanctions

Russia-Ukraine tensions news from January 25: Biden says NATO has ‘no intention’ of sending forces to Ukraine.

U.S. President Joe Biden is seen wearing a face mask
US President Joe Biden said he would consider imposing direct sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin [Leah Millis/Reuters]

US President Joe Biden has said he would consider imposing economic sanctions personally targeting Vladimir Putin if the Russian president orders a new attack on Ukraine.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged European allies to have sanctions ready to go if Russia invades Ukraine.

“We have a hard-hitting package of sanctions ready to go and what I think it would be fair to say is we want to see our European friends ready to deploy that package as soon as there should be any incursion at all by Russia into Ukraine,” Johnson said in a statement to parliament on Tuesday.

Russia has amassed some 100,000 troops within reach of Ukraine’s border, but denies planning an invasion. Instead, it has cited the Western response to its military buildup as evidence that Russia is the target of aggression.

On Monday, Washington put 8,500 troops on heightened alert for possible deployment to Eastern Europe, potentially at very short notice, and other NATO member states moved to boost their security presence in the region. Moscow hit back at that move, saying the United States was escalating tensions.

The live blog is now closed; thank you for joining us. Here are the updates for January 25.

Key US Republican says Congress will sanction Putin

Key Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham has vowed that Congress will impose sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin for amassing troops near the Ukrainian border.

“Congress, I think in a bipartisan fashion, is going to sanction Putin for the disruption to the world order by the military buildup, not invasion,” Graham told The Brian Kilmeade Show on Tuesday.

The senator, a foreign policy hawk and frequent critic of President Joe Biden, added that Congress will also agree to send “more weapons” to Ukraine.

Spain says sanctions against Russia would be ‘forceful’ if needed

Spain vowed to support a “massive, forceful package” of economic measures against Russia if it launches military action against Ukraine, its foreign minister has said.

Jose Manuel Albares said that European nations had resources other than force to dissuade Russia from any military intervention in the neighbouring country, including ones that would have “massive economic consequences and high costs” for Russia.

“I can assure you that it will be a massive, forceful package [of sanctions],” Albares told Spain’s parliament on Tuesday night.

US warns Belarus against helping Russia invade Ukraine

The United States has warned Belarus of “swift and decisive response” if it assists ally Russia in invading neighbouring Ukraine.

“We’ve also made clear to Belarus that if it allows its territory to be used for an attack on Ukraine, it would face a swift and decisive response from the United States and our allies and partners,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

US backs European talks with Russia

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price has voiced support for European engagements with Russia, saying that Washington and its allies are united in seeking a diplomatic resolution in the crisis in Ukraine.

“We know the fact that our allies and partners are engaged in diplomacy and dialogue. To us, that’s a good thing,” Price told reporters on Tuesday. “But it is incumbent in all of this on the Russian Federation to take steps to demonstrate that dialogue and diplomacy are viable.”

Price’s comments come ahead of a phone call between French President Emmanuel Macron and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, set for Friday.

Ned Price
US State Department spokesman Ned Price says talks between European allies and Russia are a ‘good thing’ [Kevin Lamarque/Pool via Reuters]

Situation in eastern Ukraine ‘under control’: Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has addressed the nation and said decisions made Monday in a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council show that “everything is under control, there is no reason to panic”.

He said the main topic on the agenda was the situation in eastern Ukraine and authorities are doing their best to de-escalate and find a peaceful settlement of the issue.

“We are aware of everything; we are ready for everything; we believe in the best; and we do everything to this end together with our partners, our diplomats, and most importantly, our military,” he said.

Escalated conflict would keep inflation higher longer: IMF

An escalated conflict between Russia and Ukraine would likely further increase energy costs and commodities prices for many countries, keeping headline inflation rates elevated for longer, a top International Monetary Fund official has said.

First Deputy Managing Director Gita Gopinath told Reuters the situation now is far different than in 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine, and energy prices fell quite sharply amid low demand and ample shale gas supplies.

“This time around … if this conflict were to happen, you would see an increase in energy prices,” Gopinath told Reuters in an interview, noting the current crisis was unfolding in the European winter and natural gas reserves were much lower in Europe.

US says it incorporates Ukraine feedback in written response to Russian demands

The US has solicited Ukraine’s feedback and incorporated it into its written response to Russia’s security demands, a US Department of State spokesperson has said.

Biden: Attack on Ukraine could be ‘largest invasion’ since WWII

A Russian incursion into Ukraine could become the “largest invasion” since World War II given the massive troop presence near the border, according to Biden.

Such an event would “change the world,” he told reporters.

Biden warned that Putin “continues to build forces along Ukraine’s border from Belarus”.

President Joe Biden speaks with members of the media as he visits the local clothing store Honey Made store in Washington
US President Joe Biden speaks with members of the media as he visits the Honey Made clothing store in Washington, DC [Andrew Harni/AP Photo]

Belarus strengthening forces at Ukrainian border: Lukashenko

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said that upcoming joint drills with Russia will help to determine positions for deploying more Belarusian troops at the border with Ukraine.

Speaking during a state awards ceremony, Lukashenko said Belarus is strengthening its military forces at the border with Ukraine.

“I was forced do it, because the situation on the border with Ukraine is not better than it’s on the border with Poland,” he said.

Putin meeting with Italy business elite to go ahead

A meeting between Putin and the heads of some of Italy’s top companies to boost business ties between the two countries is set to go ahead on Wednesday, despite rising tensions over Ukraine.

The meeting, originally scheduled for November, will be via a video link and feature top managers at companies like energy group Eni power giant Enel and lender UniCredit.

“Italy is one of the leading exporters to Russia and the idea is to stimulate dialogue between the sides,” one of the organisers said, confirming the event.

US plane brings Javelin missiles and launchers to Ukraine

A United States plane carrying Javelin anti-tank missiles, launchers and other military hardware has landed in Kyiv, the third shipment of a $200m security package.

“Javelins in Kyiv! A new cargo of security aid – launchers & missiles – with a total weight of about 80 tons. We expect the arrival of the 4th from the big flock of birds soon,” Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov tweeted.

“Thanks to our strategic partner.”

US in talks about diverting energy supplies to Europe

Senior Biden administration officials have said the United States is in talks with major energy-producing countries and companies around the world about a potential diversion of supplies to Europe if Russia invades Ukraine.

Speaking to reporters on a call, the officials – who spoke on condition of anonymity – did not name the countries or companies involved in discussions to protect supplies to Europe but said they included a broad range of suppliers, including sellers of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

“We’ve been working to identify additional volumes of non-Russian natural gas from various areas of the world; from North Africa and the Middle East to Asia and the United States,” one US official said.

The EU depends on Russia for approximately a third of its gas supplies. Any interruptions to its Russian imports would exacerbate an existing energy crisis caused by shortages.

Biden says would consider personal sanctions on Putin if Russia invades Ukraine

President Joe Biden has said he would consider imposing economic sanctions personally targeting Vladimir Putin if the Russian president orders a new attack on Ukraine.

“Yes. I would see that,” Biden said when asked by reporters in Washington.

Biden says ‘no intention’ of US or NATO forces entering Ukraine

US President Joe Biden said he has “no intention” of sending US troops into Ukraine, but again warned Russia of severe sanctions if Moscow orders an attack.

Speaking to reporters, Biden said he has “no intention of putting American forces or NATO forces in Ukraine”.

Top US Senate Republican says Biden ‘moving in the right direction’

US Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, a frequent critic of President Joe Biden, has said that he is seeing “encouraging” signs from the administration about its approach to deterring further Russian aggression towards Ukraine.

McConnell said Biden now appears to be adopting the right approach to Ukraine following a weekend meeting with his security team at Camp David. McConnell last week said Biden had “telegraphed passivity and weakness” on the issue.

“What I’ve been hearing since then is encouraging, that they’re prepared to take steps before an incursion, not afterwards,” McConnell said at a news conference in Frankfort, Kentucky.

“It appears to me the administration is moving in the right direction,” he added.

Finland enhances military readiness

Finland – which shares a long border with Russia – has enhanced its military readiness, Colonel Petteri Kajanmaa, head of the warfare department at the Finnish National Defence University has said.

Kajanmaa said that enhancing readiness usually means collecting more intelligence, briefing the state leadership more often and moving resources such as planes and ships to new locations.

“That way they can monitor more efficiently and have a shorter reaction time,” Kajanmaa said.

Finland is not a target of any military threat but the defence forces still need to be prepared for any potential action, Kajanmaa said.

Ukraine’s leader offers calm but no ‘childish illusions’ about Russia threat

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged people to stay calm about the threat of a Russian attack and said there was work in progress to bring about a meeting between him and the leaders of Russia, France and Germany.

In a televised video address, Zelenskyy said this week’s withdrawal of personnel from Western embassies in Kyiv did not signal that a military escalation with Russia was inevitable.

“There are no rose-coloured glasses, no childish illusions, everything is not simple … But there is hope,” Zelenskyy said. “Protect your body from viruses, your brain from lies, your heart from panic.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sits at a table in front of a laptop and answers during his on-line interview for media in Kyiv, Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged people to stay calm about the threat of a Russian attack [Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP Photo]

Germany’s Scholz warns Russia after meeting Macron

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has warned Russia of the consequences of an attack on Ukraine after he met French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the crisis and other issues in Berlin.

“There are many troops stationed [along Ukrainian-Russian border] and therefore it is necessary that everything is now done to ensure that the situation develops differently than is sometimes feared at present,” Scholz said.

“We therefore also expect clear steps from Russia that contribute to a de-escalation of the situation, and we all agree that military aggression would have serious consequences.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks during a media conference with the German flag in the background
‘We therefore also expect clear steps from Russia that contribute to a de-escalation of the situation,’ German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said [Tobias Schwarz/AP Photo]

Chancellor Scholz defends Germany’s engagement

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has defended Germany’s record on supporting Ukraine, responding to criticism of Berlin’s refusal to follow other Western countries in sending Kyiv lethal weapons to defend itself against a possible Russian invasion.

“We have done a great deal to actively support economic development and democratic development in Ukraine,” he told a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, adding that there were historical reasons for Germany’s refusal to send lethal weapons to warzones.

“We feel responsible, for example, for ensuring that Ukraine remains a [gas] transit country,” he added. “Ukraine knows it can rely on Germany.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attend a media conference
French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attend a media conference before their meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany [Tobias Schwarz/AP Photo]

Biden does not intend to send unilateral US troops to Ukraine: White House

US President Joe Biden does not intend to send unilateral US troops to Ukraine, the White House has said, after Washington put some 8,500 troops on alert to reassure NATO allies in the face of a Russian military buildup.

“Just to be clear: there is no intention or interest or desire by the president to send troops to Ukraine. NATO is a forum to support our eastern flank partners and countries, and that’s what the focus has been on.”

France’s Macron to talk to Putin on Friday about Ukraine

French President Emmanuel Macron has said he will speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin by telephone on Friday and that he wanted clarification on Moscow’s intentions over Ukraine.

Macron also said that US-Russia talks over Ukraine were a “good thing” but that they were yet to show any clear results.

German chancellor rules out delivery of weapons to Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has ruled out delivery of lethal weapons to Ukraine, pledging strong economic support amid growing tensions with Russia.

Russia will pay ‘very high price’ if it attacks Ukraine: Macron

France and Germany will not abandon dialogue with Russia but if Moscow chooses to attack Ukraine the price will be high, French President Emmnauel Macron has said.

Macron, speaking at a news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, said Europe and its allies were united on the question of Ukraine.

“If there is an attack, there will be retaliation and the price [for Russia] will be very high,” Macron said, urging a “de-escalation”.

French President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he speaks during a media conference
‘If there is an attack, there will be retaliation and the price (for Russia) will be very high,’  French President Emmanuel Macron said [Tobias Schwarz/AP Photo]

Ukraine leaders urge calm, saying invasion is not imminent

Ukraine’s leaders have sought to reassure the nation that an invasion from neighbouring Russia was not imminent, even as they acknowledged the threat is real.

In parliament, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that “as of today, there are no grounds to believe” that Russia is preparing to invade imminently, noting that its troops have not formed what he called a battle group that could force its way through the border.

“Don’t worry, sleep well,” he said. “No need to have your bags packed.”

Reznikov’s remarks follow multiple reassurances from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other officials.

US ratchets up sanctions pressure against Moscow

The US has warned Moscow of damaging sanctions, including high-tech export curbs, as Russian combat troops massing around Ukraine launched new exercises.

Unveiling ways that Western allies intend to inflict “massive consequences” on Russia’s economy in the event of a Ukraine invasion, a senior US official also warned Moscow against using energy exports as a weapon.

“We are prepared to implement sanctions with massive consequences” that go far beyond previous measures implemented in 2014 after Russia invaded Ukraine’s Crimea region, the official said.

“The gradualism of the past is out,” the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Swedish government advises against non-essential travel to Ukraine

Sweden’s foreign ministry has said it is advising against all non-essential travel to Ukraine and all travel to the Crimean Peninsula as well as the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the Eastern European country due to the security situation.

The ministry made the announcement on its website.

UK urges European allies to ready Russia sanctions

The UK has urged its European allies to have sanctions ready to go if Russia invades Ukraine and said Western unity was vital to deter Moscow.

“We have a hard-hitting package of sanctions ready to go and what I think it would be fair to say is we want to see our European friends ready to deploy that package as soon as there should be any incursion at all by Russia into Ukraine,” Johnson said in a statement to parliament.

“It is absolutely vital that … the West is united now, because it is our unity now that will be much more effective in deterring any Russian aggression.”

Service members of the Ukrainian armed forces are seen at combat positions near the line of separation from Russian-backed rebels in Donetsk Region, Ukraine
Service members of the Ukrainian armed forces are seen at combat positions near the line of separation from Russian-backed rebels outside the town of Avdiivka in Donetsk Region, Ukraine [Maksim Levin/Reuters]

US plane delivers military equipment, munitions to Ukraine

A US plane carrying military equipment and munitions has landed in Kyiv, the third shipment of a $200m security package aimed at shoring up Ukraine amid the threat of a possible Russian invasion.

“Our partners are increasing the amount of military assistance. And today, we are meeting the third aircraft from the United States government as part of this assistance,” Ukranian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov told reporters before the plane landed.

Washington has committed more than $650m in security assistance to Ukraine in the past year and more than $2.7bn in total since 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Employees unload a plane with a new US security assistance provided to Ukraine, at Kyiv's airport Boryspil
Employees unload a plane with new US security assistance provided to Ukraine at Kyiv’s Boryspil airport [Sergei Supinsky/AFP]

The Ukraine-Russia crisis in infographics

As Russia and Ukraine face-off, Al Jazeera has put together a series of infographics on the respective military resources of each and Moscow’s possible invasion paths, among other topics.

Take a look here.

Canada pulls diplomats’ relatives out of Ukraine

Canada’s foreign ministry says it has ordered the families of its diplomats in Kyiv to temporarily leave Ukraine.

“Due to the ongoing Russian military buildup and destabilising activities in and around Ukraine, we have decided to temporarily withdraw Canadian embassy staff’s children under 18 years of age and family members accompanying them,” the ministry said in a statement, adding it would “continue to closely monitor the situation”.

The United States and United Kingdom took a similar action earlier.

Washington in discussions with top energy producers

The United States is in talks with major energy-producing countries and companies around the world to understand their willingness and capacity to divert supplies to Europe should such moves be necessary in the event of a Russian invasion, senior officials in President Joe Biden’s administration have said.

Speaking to reporters in a call, the officials said Washington’s conversations on ensuring an uninterrupted energy flow into Europe for the remainder of winter was with a broad range of suppliers and did not centre on a few sellers.

The European Union depends on Russia for around a third of its gas supplies, and US sanctions over any conflict could disrupt that supply.

Gas pipelines are pictured at a facility in Russia's Amur region
The European Union depends on Russia for around a third of its gas supplies [File: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

What is Nord Steam 2, and why is it contentious?

As Western powers attempt to avert a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Nord Stream 2, a long-touted energy infrastructure project that has already driven a wedge between Germany and the US, could become a key bargaining chip.

Read more here.

UK will look to contribute to any NATO deployment, PM says

The UK will look to contribute to any NATO deployment if Russia invades Ukraine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

He told Parliament his government would also not hesitate to toughen sanctions on Moscow over the crisis, as he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against a “counterproductive” incursion.

“We cannot bargain away the vision of a Europe whole and free that emerged in those amazing years from 1989 to 1991,” Johnson said, referring to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“Healing the division of our continent by the Iron Curtain, we will not reopen that divide by agreeing to overturn the European security order because Russia has placed a gun to Ukraine’s head.”

NATO to determine troop posture regarding Ukraine: US official

NATO will make all decisions on possible movement of troops amid the continuing Russia-Ukraine crisis, US Deputy National Security Adviser Jonathan Finer has said.

“The alliance will make decisions about force posture adjustments, but they are ready to go at a moment’s notice when the alliance decides,” he told CNN in an interview.

A simple guide to the Ukraine-Russia crisis

As tensions continue to mount, Al Jazeera has prepared a simple explainer on the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

For five things you need to know, click here.

UK foreign minister to visit Ukraine next week

The UK’s foreign minister has said she will visit Ukraine next week and reiterated a warning to Russia that any invasion of its neighbour would provoke severe economic penalties.

“A further military incursion by Russia into Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake and come with a severe cost on Russia’s economy, including coordinated sanctions,” Liz Truss told Parliament.

Asked about the possible deployment of British troops in a combat role, she said it was “unlikely that that would be the circumstance”.

Croatia to withdraw military from NATO forces in event of conflict: President

Croatian President Zoran Milanovic has said his country will withdraw its military from NATO forces in the region in event of a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, according to local media reports.

Russian rouble tries to recover after sell-off

The rouble has slightly recovered after a massive sell-off saw the currency plunge to a more than 14-month low, with Russian assets highly sensitive to tensions between Moscow and the West over Ukraine.

By 11:40 GMT, the rouble was 0.2 percent stronger against the dollar at 78.59, slightly up after largely flat levels earlier in the day. On Monday, it fell to 79.50, the rouble’s weakest point since November 3, 2020.

Versus the euro, the rouble gained 0.6 percent to trade at 88.64.

EU work on ‘deterrent measures’ is ‘well advanced’: Spokesperson

The EU’s executive arm has advanced its work to have “strong deterrent” measures ready if Russia continues its threatening actions against Ukraine, a spokesperson for the bloc has said.

“The work is very well advanced in order to have in place strong deterrent and also robust measures prepared in case the dialogue does not succeed, that Russia does not de-escalate.” the spokesperson said during a press conference.

“In case Russia embarks on future violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty territorial integrity … We will be reacting very strong and there will be strong political consequences and massive economic costs inflicted on the aggressor.”

Ukraine claims to break up Moscow-backed group preparing attacks

Ukraine says it has dismantled a group of saboteurs coordinated by Moscow that was preparing a series of attacks in its border regions to “destabilise” the situation in the ex-Soviet country.

The group was preparing a “series of armed attacks” on city infrastructure, Ukraine’s security service SBU said in a statement, adding that the group was “coordinated by Russian special services”.

Two soldiers sit near a Ukrainian flag
Russia has repeatedly denied it has any plans to make an incursion into neighbouring Ukraine, but Kyiv and its Western allies fear otherwise [File: Press Service of the 92nd Separate Mechanized Brigade/Handout via Reuters]

UN refugee agency says it is ready to help in Ukraine if required

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has said it is keeping a close eye on the Ukraine crisis and is ready to help in case conflict causes a displacement of people.

“We are calling for calm, for all actors to try to ratchet down the tensions,” UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh told a UN briefing. “We are talking to partners about contingency plans. We have the ability to move in supplies if needed.”

German reaction to crisis ‘concerning’: Polish PM

Poland’s prime minister has said he is concerned by Germany’s reaction to the crisis, following a report that Berlin is blocking NATO ally Estonia from giving Ukraine military support.

“I observe with concern the situation in Ukraine and the reactions of our neighbours from Germany in the face of the threat from Russia,” Mateusz Morawiecki said in a Facebook post.

Russia begins combat readiness inspection: Report

Russia has begun combat readiness inspections involving more than 6,000 troops in its southern military district, which borders Ukraine, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency quotes the country’s military as saying.

‘War with Ukraine’ unwanted by Russians: Analyst

Pavel Felgenhauer, a Moscow-based independent defence and military analyst, says the ongoing crisis is creating “fear” among many Russian citizens.

“Real confrontation with the West, and a possible war with Ukraine, is not what the people really want,” Felgenhauer told Al Jazeera from the Russian capital.

“There is an effect of kind of rallying around the flag in a time of crisis, but there is a lot of fear, people are afraid of war… that’s obvious, and many hope this is just a kind of … high-power stake game, that this is brinkmanship and there will be no war.”

Kremlin says US actions causing ‘great concern’

The Kremlin has said it is Washington’s actions over Ukraine with “great concern” and accused the US of heightening tensions after it put troops on alert to be ready to deploy to Europe if needed.

“The United States is escalating tensions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “We are watching these US actions with great concern.”

Russian, Ukrainian officials to meet

Russian and Ukrainian officials are set to meet in Paris on Wednesday for talks with their French and German counterparts.

The meeting marks a revival of four-way talks between the nations known as the Normandy Format.

Madrid focused on deterrence in Eastern Europe: Minister

Spain’s defence minister says its warships and fighter jets deployed in Eastern Europe are not offensive but are focused on stability and deterrence.

“These are permanent missions of stability and deterrence and in no way offensive,” Margarita Robles said during an interview with radio station SER.

Spain has deployed fighter jets in Baltic countries to contribute to NATO’s air surveillance programme for a number of years. Robles said last week Spain also sent two warships to the Mediterranean and Black Seas and is considering sending more warplanes to Bulgaria.

NATO reinforces its eastern flank

NATO allies have put forces on standby and sent ships and fighter jets to bolster Europe’s eastern defences as tensions soar over Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine.

Read more here.

In a Ukrainian city, a civilian army prepares for war with Russia

In Kharkiv, northeast Ukraine, reserve forces are busily preparing for a possible conflict with Russia.

They are part of the so-called Territorial Defence Force – a volunteer unit within the country’s official Armed Forces – which is being readied for engagement.

Read more here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies