Latest Ukraine updates: US formally responds to Russia’s demands

Russia-Ukraine tensions news from January 26: Biden administration rejects Russian demand to halt NATO’s expansion.

Russian army service members
Russian army service members take part in drills at the Kuzminsky range in the southern Rostov region, Russia January 26, 2022 [Sergey Pivovarov/Reuters]

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington has set out a “serious diplomatic path” for Moscow to resolve the tensions over Ukraine in a letter to the Russian government.

But he said that the letter made no concessions to Russia’s main demands, such as guarantees that Ukraine will never be admitted to NATO.

“We made clear that there are core principles that we are committed to uphold and defend, including Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the right of states to choose their own security arrangements and alliances,” Blinken said.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s foreign minister has said Moscow’s buildup of troops near its border is “insufficient for a full-scale offensive”, a day after the embattled country’s president called for calm over the crisis.

Washington and its allies warn the Kremlin may be readying an imminent incursion, but Moscow has repeatedly stated it has no plans to attack its neighbour.

The live blog is now closed; thank you for joining us. Here are the updates for January 26:

‘No military solution out of this crisis,’ say US progressives

Two prominent anti-war US lawmakers have expressed concerns over the possible “significant” deployment of American troops, while voicing support for President Joe Biden’s efforts to resolve the crisis with Russia diplomatically.

Democratic congresswomen Pramila Jayapal and Barbara Lee also called on their colleagues to allow Biden to find a peaceful solution to the impasse, in an apparent message to lawmakers pressuring the president to be more hawkish.

“We continue to watch Russia’s threatening behavior towards Ukraine with alarm,” Lee and Jayapal said in a joint statement.

“There is no military solution out of this crisis – diplomacy needs to be the focus. We support the Biden Administration’s efforts to extend and deepen the dialogue, allowing for robust negotiations and compromise.”

Canada extends mission in support of Ukraine’s military

Canada is extending its military training mission in support of Ukrainian security forces by three years and pledging an additional $268m ($340m Canadian) to the programme, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced.

Sixty additional Canadian military personnel will be deployed “within days” as part of Operation UNIFIER, Trudeau told reporters, while the number of troops on the ground is authorised to reach up to 400.

“Let there be no mistake that Canada, alongside all of our democratic allies, stands strong for Ukraine and everything we do is motivated by our pursuit of de-escalation and a diplomatic solution,” Trudeau said.

Canada’s minister of defence, Anita Anand, will be travelling to Latvia and Ukraine in the coming days.

Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada ‘stands strong for Ukraine’ [Blair Gable/Reuters]

Russia sent good signal in Paris talks: French official

Talks in Paris to revive the four-way Normandy format succeeded in getting a commitment from Russia to re-engage in the process, a French presidential source said on Wednesday amid tension with Ukraine.

The official said the talks, which addressed the conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country, were a good signal and a step to defusing tensions, but major differences remained.

“This meeting was a test. I think today we saw that the Russians are willing to de-escalate on this subject,” the French official was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.

Another round of talks is set to take place in Berlin in two weeks.

Ukraine talks ‘not simple’, new round in 2 weeks: Kremlin envoy

Talks between Russia and Ukraine in Paris were “not simple” but a new round of discussions will take place in two weeks in Berlin, the Kremlin’s envoy Dmitry Kozak said.

Announcing that new round of talks will be held in Berlin in two weeks, he added, “We need a supplementary pause. We hope that this process will have results in two weeks.”

Turkey’s Erdogan says Russia would be unwise to invade Ukraine

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes Russia would be unwise to launch a military conflict in Ukraine and in that case his country would do what is necessary as a NATO member.

In an interview on broadcaster NTV, Erdogan said he has invited Vladimir Putin to Turkey under a proposal to host both sides for diplomacy and a path to peace, adding that he expects a response from Moscow.

Erdogan also said there was a need for comprehensive dialogue that addresses some of Russia’s security concerns, while explaining to Moscow that some of its demands are not plausible.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seen sitting on a chair with a Turkish flag in the background
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan [File: Arif Hudaverdi Yaman/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]

Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany commit to ceasefire in eastern Ukraine

Advisors to the heads of state of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany who met for talks in Paris, in a joint statement reaffirmed their commitment to uphold a ceasefire agreed in the so-called Minsk accords.

“They support unconditional compliance with the ceasefire … regardless of differences on other issues related to the implementation of the Minsk agreements”, they said in a statement published on the website of the French presidency.

Russia says NATO presence near its border unacceptable: AJ correspondent

Russia believes the threat of NATO military infrastructure moving closer to its borders is unacceptable, Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari said from Moscow.

“There’s also not only just the threat of NATO troops moving closer to this country (Russia) … they’ve said that any kind of sanctions the US government is threatening against the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin are very destructive in nature,” Jabbari added.

“They say that the United States has really boxed themselves into a corner by the language that they’ve been using.”

Blinken says Biden heavily involved in letter to Moscow

US President Joe Biden was heavily involved in the drafting of a written document delivered to the Russian government, Antony Blinken said.

“The Russians understand our positions, our ideas as clearly as possible,” the top US diplomat said.

A Russian army service member jumps off an armoured personnel carrier BTR-82 during drills at the Kuzminsky range in the southern Rostov region
A Russian army service member jumps off an armoured personnel carrier BTR-82 during drills at the Kuzminsky range in the southern Rostov region, Russia January 26, 2022 [Sergey Pivovarov/Reuters]

NATO chief says reaching out to Russia but ‘prepared for worst’

NATO allies have made proposals for a diplomatic solution to tensions triggered by Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine but remain “prepared for the worst,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

“We are now reaching out to Russia once again to try to pursue a path of dialogue and find a political solution,” he said.

“But of course, while we are hoping for and working for a good solution, de-escalation, we are also prepared for the worst,” he said.

Moscow sending more troops to Belarus, NATO says

Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine is continuing with thousands of additional troops and modern weapons being deployed to Belarus, Jens Stoltenberg said.

“Tensions are increasing,” he told reporters in Brussels.

“We see more troops not only in and around Ukraine, but also now in Belarus where Russia is in the process of deploying thousands of troops, hundreds of aircraft, S-400 air defence systems and a lot of other very advanced capabilities,” he said, adding this was happening under the disguise of an exercise.

We don’t judge Germany for not providing weapons to Ukraine: UK minister

The United Kingdom is not judging countries that have chosen not to supply Ukraine with lethal weapons, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told reporters during a visit to Berlin.

While the United States and UK have started sending more arms to Ukraine, Germany has ruled out sending deadly weapons for historical reasons and said it will supply military helmets and a field hospital.

Asked during a news conference alongside his German counterpart whether he felt Germany was doing enough to deter a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Wallace said, “The advantage of being in NATO is there are 30 allies so we can all assist Ukraine in our own way.”

Blinken says US set out ‘serious diplomatic path’ for Russia to choose

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington has set out a “serious diplomatic path” to resolve the confrontation over Ukraine in a letter to the Russian government.

“We make clear that there are core principles that we are committed to uphold and defend, including Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the right of states to choose their own security arrangements and alliances,” Blinken said after the letter was delivered in Moscow.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about Russia and Ukraine during a briefing at the Department of State in Washington, DC [Brendan Smialowski/Pool/AFP]

NATO’s door ‘remains open’, Blinken says

Antony Blinken has reiterated that Washington rejects Moscow’s demand to stop NATO’s eastward expansion into former Soviet republics.

He did not share the specifics of the US administration’s written response to Russia’s concerns – which was delivered on Wednesday – but he said “NATO’s open-door policy” has not changed.

“From our perspective, I can’t be more clear: NATO’s door is open, remains open. And that is our commitment,” Blinken told reporters.

US ambassador in Moscow delivers written response to Russian concerns

The US ambassador, John Sullivan, in Moscow has delivered a written American response to concerns and proposals previously outlined by Russia, Antony Blinken announced.

The US secretary of state did not share the content of the document, but said that it opens the door for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.

“The document we’ve delivered includes concerns of the United States and our allies and partners about Russia’s actions that undermine security, a principled and pragmatic evaluation of the concerns that Russia has raised, and our own proposals for areas where we may be able to find common ground,” Blinken told reporters at the Department of State.

US fighter jets arrive in Estonia for training

Six US fighter jets have arrived in Estonia to boost the NATO mission there.

The F-15E jets arrived at the Amari base in northwest Estonia to take part in an exercise along with four Danish jets due to arrive in Lithuania on Thursday.

“The additional aircraft will work closely with the current detachments to increase our readiness, build crucial interoperability and underline the robust solidarity across the alliance,” Major General Joerg Lebert, chief of staff at Headquarters Allied Air Command in Germany, said in a statement.

Czechs to donate 4,000 artillery shells to Ukraine

The Czech defence ministry says it will donate 4,000 artillery shells to Ukraine in the coming days.

“The gift worth 36.6 million Czech crowns ($1.7m) was approved by the government today,” defence ministry spokesman Jakub Fajnor told the AFP news agency.

The gift comprises 4,006 shells with a calibre of 152 millimetres, the defence ministry said on its website.

Ukrainian servicemen walk to their position at the frontline
Ukrainian servicemen walk to their position at the frontline with Russia-backed separatists outside Verkhnotoretske village in Yasynuvata district of Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine [File: Andriy Andriyenko/AP Photo]

Ukraine crisis requires ‘international response’: Blinken

A Russian invasion of Ukraine would threaten the “most basic principles of international relations”, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

“This crisis is much bigger than just Ukraine or even Europe. It’s a serious concern to the entire international community; it requires an international response,” Blinken.

Speaking after a meeting in Washington with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser al-Mohammed, Blinken appeared to liken Russia’s posture towards Ukraine to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which was subsequently repelled by an US-led, international military coalition.

“Kuwait knows this, in a sense, better than anyone because at stake in Ukraine are some of the most basic principles of international relations that undergird peace and security – like the principle that one nation can’t simply change the borders of another by force,” Blinken said.

US embassy in Ukraine urges citizens to leave

The US embassy in Ukraine has urged American citizens in Ukraine to consider departing now, saying that the security situation in the country was “unpredictable due to the increased threat of Russian military action”.

The security situation in Ukraine “can deteriorate with little notice”, the embassy said on its website.

Ukrainian servicemen check the situation at the positions on a front line near the Avdiivka village
Ukrainian servicemen check the situation at the positions on a front line near the Avdiivka village, not far from pro-Russian militants controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine, 25 January 2022 [Stanislav Kozliuk/EPA]

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.

INTERACTIVE- Russia and Ukraine at a quick glance

‘A threat against Ukraine is a threat against Europe’

The European Council chief, Charles Michel, has expressed solidarity with Kyiv, saying “a threat against Ukraine is a threat against Europe”.

Michel made his remarks at a joint news conference with Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger.

Russian invasion could upset China: US diplomat

Chinese President Xi Jinping will “not be ecstatic” if Russia invades Ukraine as Beijing’s Winter Olympic Games begin early next month, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has said.

During a virtual conversation hosted by Yalta European Strategy, Sherman said she did not know whether Russian President Vladimir Putin had made the decision to invade, but that there were indications an invasion could happen between now and mid-February.

“We all are aware that the Beijing Olympics are beginning on February 4, the opening ceremony, and President Putin expects to be there. I think that probably President Xi Jinping would not be ecstatic if Putin chose that moment to invade Ukraine,” Sherman said. “So that may affect his timing and his thinking.”

‘There’s always danger’: Life on Ukraine’s front line

In eastern Ukraine, soldiers and citizens have shared with Al Jazeera their experiences of living on the front line of a simmering conflict with Russian-backed separatists. Click here to read their accounts.

Cyberattack briefly takes down Ukrainian ministry’s website

A promotional website for Ukraine’s foreign ministry has been restored, the ministry said, after unidentified hackers had briefly taken it down.

The website – – which aims to promote the country among foreigners was unavailable for several hours during the attack. The ministry gave no further details.

In mid-January, a powerful cyberattack hit about 70 internet sites of the Ukrainian government and regional bodies. It warned Ukrainians to “be afraid and expect the worst” as the country braces for a possible Russian attack.

Ukraine believes Russia was ultimately behind that cyberattack, which Moscow denies.

France ‘taking all necessary initiatives to trigger de-escalation’: FM

France is fully mobilised with its European partners and the US to find ways to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said.

“The Ukraine situation is very tense but we are taking all the necessary initiatives to trigger a de-escalation process,” Le Drian told the French Senate.

Romania ready to host more NATO troops: President

Romania is in talks with the US and France about ways to enhance their troop count in the country and is ready to host an increased NATO military presence, President Klaus Iohannis has said.

“I have been constantly saying we are ready to host an increased allied presence on our territory,” Iohannis said.

Ukraine slams Berlin’s ‘purely symbolic’ helmet ‘gesture’

Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany has criticised Berlin’s promise to send 5,000 combat helmets to Ukraine as a “purely symbolic gesture”.

“It’s just a drop in the bucket. It’s not even a consolation prize,” Ambassador Andriy Melnyk told Germany’s DPA news agency. “Ukraine is expecting a 180-degree U-turn from the federal government, a true paradigm shift.”

Berlin has refused to sell weapons to Ukraine despite other NATO member states doing so.

Spanish PM warns Moscow any incursion will draw punishing sanctions

Russia will face massive economic consequences if it launches any kind of military intervention in Ukraine, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Finnish counterpart, Sanchez did not provide any details on what measures Moscow might face but warned they would be serious.

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin meanwhile said the option of her country joining NATO must remain on the table. The Kremlin is opposed to any further eastern expansion of the military alliance.

US deploys F-15 fighter jets to Lithuania

Six US F-15 fighter jets have landed in an Estonian airbase, the Lithuanian Defence Ministry says.

The units are being deployed for a week and a half as the NATO transatlantic military alliance reinforces its eastern flank.

Denmark has said it will deploy four F-16 fighter jets to a nearby Lithuanian airbase in Siauliai on Thursday.

An F15 jet
The US F-15s are being deployed for a week and a half as the NATO transatlantic military alliance reinforces its eastern flank [File: Mohammad Hannon/AP Photo]

Germany sends helmets to Ukraine

Germany is supplying 5,000 military helmets to Ukraine, a defence ministry spokesperson has said.

“I can confirm that we have completed an assessment in response to a request from the Ukrainian side to commit to a delivery of 5,000 military helmets,” the spokesperson told a regular government news conference. “I cannot tell you anything about the timeline yet.”

Explainer: 4 things to know about Western threats of sanctions on Russia

Washington and some of its European allies have threatened myriad sanctions against Moscow should it decide to move in on Ukraine.

To find out more about exactly what measures the West is weighing, click here.

Russia should back separatists with weapons, lawmaker says

Moscow should support two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine with certain types of weapons, Andrey Turchak, a senior member of the ruling United Russia party that backs Putin has said.

Turchak’s remarks come as Russia’s parliament is planning to hold consultations on asking Putin to formally recognise the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic in the Donbas region.

Kyiv says it can ‘keep the economy stable’ despite volatility

Ukraine’s prime minister says the country’s government has enough resources to maintain financial and economic stability amid market volatility due to fears of a potential Russian attack.

“We are not saying that there are no threats – they have existed for the last eight years; we only emphasise the fact that the government now has all the necessary resources to keep the economy stable,” Denys Shmygal told a televised government meeting.

Italy is a key partner for Moscow, Putin tells Italian executives

Putin has told Italian business executives that Italy is a key partner for Moscow as western tensions with the Kremlin over Ukraine rise.

Speaking at an online meeting, Putin also said via video link that Russia was a reliable energy supplier and that Rome was able to buy gas from Gazprom at lower prices thanks to long-term deals.

The meeting, which had drawn criticism from the Italian government, was originally set to take place in November before it was rescheduled.

Pope calls for peace in Ukraine

Pope Francis has called for peace in Ukraine while delivering an address during his weekly general audience.

“I ask you to pray for peace in Ukraine and to do it often in the course of the day,” Francis said, adding that he hoped “wounds, fears, and divisions” can be overcome.

Francis last Sunday called on people of all religions to pray on Wednesday for an end to the crisis, saying the rising tensions were threatening the security of Europe and risking vast repercussions.

Caught in the fighting while waiting for war in Ukraine

While fears rise over a potential new Russian incursion into Ukraine, swaths of territory in the latter’s east are already beset by conflict.

In the following podcast, Al Jazeera correspondent Charles Stratford travels to the Donbas to document the impact of war, and the threat of yet more conflict, on the people there.

Why can’t Europe agree on how to deal with the Ukraine crisis?

European Union leaders remain divided over how to respond to Moscow as the Russia-Ukraine crisis continues to deepen.

For an in-depth analysis of why that is the case and what the lack of unity means for the bloc’s role in the unfolding situation, read more here.

A simple guide to the Ukraine-Russia crisis

The Russia-Ukraine standoff has been marked by dizzying developments and pinball rhetoric between Moscow and the West. To help you get to grips with the crisis, Al Jazeera has a simple explainer.

Have a look here.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russia has denied that it is planning to invade Ukraine [File: Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via Reuters]

Kyiv sees Paris talks as ‘strong signal’ towards peace, official says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff says the four-way talks in Paris are a strong signal there may be a “peaceful settlement” to the crisis.

“We have finally managed to unlock the format – and it’s a strong signal of readiness for a peaceful settlement. Hope for a constructive dialogue in [Ukraine’s] interests,” Andriy Yermak tweeted upon arriving in the French capital for the discussions.

Italy will ‘do its part’ with NATO over Ukraine: Minister

Italy’s defence minister has said the country will uphold its NATO commitments in the Ukraine crisis.

“The Alliance has provided for a strengthening of deterrence measures on its eastern flank to which Italy is also participating in terms of operations and missions already authorised by parliament,” Lorenzo Guerini said in a statement.

“If further decisions will be taken, always within the NATO strategy of deterrence, Italy will give its further contribution and will do its part,” he added, before underlining Rome’s desire for a peaceful solution to the situation.


Kremlin warns sanctions on Putin would be ‘destructive’

The Kremlin says imposing personal sanctions on Putin, as the US has threatened to do, would have no effect and be counterproductive in efforts to lower tensions over Ukraine.

“Politically, it’s not painful, it’s destructive,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

To read more on this topic, click here.

Lavrov: No room for EU or OSCE in Ukraine talks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow does not want talks over Ukraine and its own security concerns to be prolonged by including the EU or the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in them.

Addressing Russia’s State Duma, or lower house of parliament, Lavrov also reiterated Moscow’s stance that it would take unspecified “appropriate measures” if it did not receive a constructive answer from the US and NATO on security guarantees it is demanding from the West.

Russia is expecting Washington to respond to its proposals in writing this week, which include a block on Ukraine joining the US-headed transatlantic military alliance.

A US response to Russia’s security demands is ok with Kyiv, FM says

Ukraine has no objections to the US responding to Russia as part of negotiations to avert a military escalation against Ukraine, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said.

Addressing a briefing, Kuleba also accused Russia of trying to sow panic in Ukraine. He said Moscow had not massed enough troops for a large-scale offensive but warned that did not mean it could not do so later, adding the current risk level was high.

Normandy Format talks to resume

France and Germany have played a mediating role in the Normandy Format talks since they first began in mid-2014, shortly after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backed a separatist uprising in the country’s east which saw rebels seize swaths of territory – areas they still hold today.

According to the DPA news agency, sources close to the French presidency said the latest round of discussions will focus on humanitarian measures as well as the possibility of holding formal negotiations over the status of the Donbas region.

Kyiv rules out talks with Russian-backed separatists

Kyiv will not hold direct talks with Russian-backed separatists in control of territories in the country’s east, according to Zelenskyy’s chief of staff.

“There have not been and will not be any direct talks with the separatists,” Yermak said in a statement on Facebook ahead of the four-way talks in Paris.

UK sanctions may target Putin directly: Foreign minister

The UK may directly target Russian President Vladimir Putin with sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine, the country’s foreign secretary has said, echoing Washington’s threat.

“We’re not ruling anything out,” Liz Truss told UK broadcaster Sky News.

“We’ll be bringing forward new legislation to make our sanctions regime tougher so we are able to target more companies and individuals in Russia. We will be bringing that forward in the next few days.”

Russian LNG vessel back in the Baltic

A huge Russian gas vessel, designed to safeguard supplies to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, has returned to the Baltic Sea region, tracking data shows.

The Refinitiv Eikon data showed the Marshal Vasilevskiy – a floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) which can also act as a liquefied natural gas (LNG) vessel – visited the Belgian port of Zeebrugge where it loaded 163,800 cubic metres of LNG on January 20 and is now near Kaliningrad.

The ship’s main role is to supply LNG to Kaliningrad, which is separated from Russia’s mainland and sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. The ship ensures the enclave can receive gas even if there are disruptions to pipelines running through Lithuania.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies