Latest Ukraine updates: Kyiv backs US reply to Russia’s demands

Latest Ukraine news from January 27: Foreign minister says Kyiv has no objections to US response to Russia’s security demands.

Ukrainian soldier holding his gun
Ukrainian servicemen of the 24th Brigade are seen outside of Zolote, Ukraine on January 27, 2022 [Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency

Moscow has begun studying highly-anticipated responses from the United States and NATO to Russia’s sweeping security demands.

In December, after building up troops at the Ukraine border, Russia called on NATO to pull back its forces and weapons from Eastern Europe and permanently block Ukraine, a former Soviet state, from becoming a member.

But in a written response to those demands, delivered in person on Wednesday by the US ambassador in Moscow, Washington repeated its commitment to upholding NATO’s “open-door” policy. Shortly after, NATO, which is led by the US, said it had delivered its own reply “in parallel with the United States”.

On Thursday, as the papers were handed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said there was “no positive response to the main question”, referring to the potential for Ukraine to join the alliance. But “there is a response which gives hope for the start of a serious conversation on secondary questions”, he said in a statement.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba later said Kyiv had “no objections” to the US’s reply to Moscow’s demands.

The live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. Here are the updates for January 27.

US confident Nord Stream 2 ‘will not’ proceed if Russia invades

The United States is confident Germany will not open the Nord Stream 2 pipeline with Russia if Moscow invades Ukraine, according to the Department of State’s number three official Victoria Nuland.

“If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward,” she said.

Asked why the US was confident, she said that the pipeline still had not been tested or certified by German regulators.

“We will work with Germany to ensure that the pipeline does not move forward,” Nuland said.

Zelenskyy to discuss security, energy, financial support with Biden: spokesman

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call with US President Joe Biden on Thursday will address security issues, energy and macro-financial support, Zelenskiy’s spokesman Sergii Nykyforov wrote on Facebook.

Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher said that the general details about the talks will be centred on the diplomatic efforts that will be undertaken, as far as the US is concerned – namely, the continued provision of military to support Ukraine, and also the prospects of macro-financing to help the country with the costs of preparing for any possible Russia invasion.

Ukraine faces enormous military odds against Russia

Russia’s military spending dwarfs that of Ukraine’s, and Moscow has many times more troops at its call than Kyiv.

Click here for more on the gulf between the two sides.

Germany’s Scholz to meet with Biden in February

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will meet US President Joe Biden at the White House on February 7, with the two leaders expected to discuss the Ukraine-Russia crisis, among other topics, the White House has said.

“Chancellor Scholz’ visit provides an opportunity to affirm the deep and enduring ties between the United States and Germany. The leaders will discuss their shared commitment to both ongoing diplomacy and joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine,” US press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Russian fighter jets touch down in Belarus before drills

Russian fighter jets have touched down at Belarusian airfields as Moscow and Minsk prepare to stage joint military exercises.

The Kremlin has also launched drills with motorised infantry and artillery units in southwestern Russia practising firing live ammunition, warplanes in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea have performed bombing runs, and dozens of warships have sailed for training exercises in the Black Sea and the Arctic.

Ukraine crisis: From Belarus to Japan, where do countries stand?

World reaction to the Russia-Ukraine standoff has spanned condemnation of Moscow from European powers to calls for calm from Beijing.

Read more here.

What did the US response say? How has Russia responded?

  • The short answer is we don’t fully know. Neither the US nor Russia has gone public with the details of Washington’s responses, but what we do know is that the Kremlin’s call to limit NATO’s future expansion was rejected.
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the US response offers a “principled and pragmatic evaluation” of the Kremlin’s concerns and sets out a diplomatic path to address them.
  • Moscow has said the response fails to take into account its main demands, but that it will carefully study the documents submitted by Washington and NATO.
  • The papers are now with Russian President Vladimir Putin and will “take time to analyse”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said.
  • The US and NATO responses provide hope of serious dialogue to follow, Lavrov has said, but only on secondary questions and not on the fundamental issues of concern to Moscow.

What is Russia’s problem with NATO?

Al Jazeera asked Maxim Suchkov, a non-resident expert at the Moscow-headquartered Russian International Affairs Council, to explain Russia’s issues with NATO. Take a look at his response in the video below.

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.

Kyiv satisfied with US response to Russia: Foreign minister

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says Kyiv is satisfied with the US response to Russia’s security demands, which he claims Ukraine saw before it was delivered to Moscow.

“We had seen the written response of the United States before it was handed over to Russia. No objections on the Ukrainian side,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

Zelenskyy welcomes talks with Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has welcomed four-way talks with Russia, France and Germany as meaningful and a step towards peace.

“The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskiy positively assesses the fact of the meeting, its constructive nature, as well as the intention to continue meaningful talks for two weeks in Berlin,” a statement by his office said, citing Wednesday’s Normandy Format talks in Paris, and the plan for further discussions in a fortnight.

“For our state, the first priority today is to achieve stable and unconditional silence in the Donbas,” the statement added. “The ceasefire regime must be guaranteed and reliable, and it is the basis on which the next steps can be taken.”

Kyiv has been battling Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas since early 2014.

Territorial Forces in Izyum, Kharkiv Oblast.
Ukraine is already beset by conflict, with Kyiv battling a separatist rebellion in the country’s east [Nils Adler/Al Jazeera]

Moscow says NATO pullback would ease tensions

A Russian foreign ministry spokesman has said that the NATO military alliance should pull back forces from Eastern Europe as such a move would help reduce military tensions in the region.

“It’s clear military tensions would be reduced if NATO withdrew its forces from Eastern European countries. This is what we are calling for,” Alexei Zaitsev, a spokesman for the ministry, said at a weekly news briefing.

German FM defends Berlin’s weapons stance

Germany’s foreign minister has defended Berlin’s refusal to send arms to Ukraine, a move that has raised eyebrows among other NATO allies and frustrated the pro-Western government in Kyiv.

Making a 180-degree turn on this issue should only be done “with full awareness and above all without closing doors that have only just tentatively reopened at this moment,” Annalena Baerbock told lawmakers in Germany’s Bundestag.

“Whoever talks, doesn’t shoot. It is therefore fatal to simply dismiss the resumption of dialogue,” she added, apparently referring to fresh exchanges between Washington and Moscow, as well as talks by Ukrainian and Russian policy advisors in Paris on Wednesday.

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.

Thought of war with Ukraine ‘unacceptable’, Russian spokesman says

Zaitsev says that the thought of a war breaking out between Russia and Ukraine is “unacceptable”.

“We have already repeatedly stated that our country does not intend to attack anyone. We consider even the thought of a war between our people to be unacceptable,” the foreign ministry spokesman told reporters.

Ukraine crisis: Russians hope for peace as the world talks of war

While concerns continue to spiral over the prospect for all-out conflict in Ukraine, Al Jazeera asked Russian citizens, lawmakers and analysts about their views on the crisis.

Click here to find out what they had to say.

NATO weighing deployments to Slovakia, FM says

Slovak Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok has said NATO is considering deploying some troops in Slovakia along with other countries on its eastern flank in response to Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine.

Korcok told reporters in a briefing shown on the news website that there had been no decisions taken as of yet, the situation was developing and the NATO member country’s government had no position on the issue at the moment.

Talk of Russian bases in Latin America ‘causing tensions’: Medvedev

The deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia has said there is no need to discuss the possibility of Russia establishing military bases in Cuba and Venezuela at the moment because such discussions are causing global tensions, according to a report by Russian news agency TASS.

“I don’t think it’s right to talk about it at this moment because as a rule, it immediately causes significant tensions,” Dmitry Medvedev was quoted as saying in an interview with Russian media outlets. He also stressed that any such moves depended on “the sovereign decisions of those countries”.

Read more on this subject here.

‘A joke’: Germany mocked over plan to send helmets to Ukraine

Germany has refused to provide weapons to Ukraine in the face of a possible Russian invasion.

Instead, Berlin has offered to send 5,000 helmets, a move that has been widely criticised in Ukraine and slammed as an “absolute joke” by the mayor of Kyiv.

Read more here.

What is Nord Stream 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.

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

Germany threatens Nord Stream 2 action

Germany has warned there will be serious consequences for Russia if it invades Ukraine, including sanctions targeting the disputed Nord Stream 2 pipeline built to bring Russian gas to Europe.

Baerbock told Germany’s parliament that Berlin was working on a “strong package” of measures with Western allies which cover Nord Stream 2.

The foreign minister’s remarks came as Medvedev told Russian media outlets he was fully confident that Nord Stream 2 will be put into operation because it is in the interests of European consumers to launch it as soon as possible.

Moscow warns of unavoidable missile crisis without curbs: Report

A senior Russian foreign ministry official has warned that a nuclear missile crisis between Moscow and Washington is unavoidable without measures to ensure restraint and predictability, according to a report by TASS.

Vladimir Ermakov said Russia thought the US was preparing to deploy short and intermediate-range missiles to Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, the report said.

He added that NATO was capable of rapidly deploying nuclear weapons that would be able to strike strategic targets in Russia.

“We continue to insist it is a priority to reach a principled understanding that the problems in this area must be urgently addressed. Otherwise, new ‘missile crises’ are unavoidable,” Ermakov was quoted as saying.

Ukrainian FM welcomes February talks with Russia

Russia is likely to remain on a diplomatic track with Kyiv and the West for at least two weeks but will continue efforts to destabilise Ukraine, Kuleba says.

Speaking after Russia held security talks in Paris on Wednesday with diplomats from Ukraine, France and Germany, the Ukrainian foreign minister told a news briefing in Copenhagen: “Nothing has changed, this is the bad news.”

“The good news is that advisers agreed to meet in Berlin in two weeks, which means that Russia for the next two weeks is likely to remain on the diplomatic track,” he said following a meeting with Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod.

The so-called “Normandy” talks in Paris were seen as a step towards defusing broader tensions in a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Russia’s main demands not ‘taken into account’, says Kremlin

The Kremlin says it looks clear that Russia’s main demands have not been taken into account by Washington in the latter’s response to Moscow’s security proposals.

“It cannot be said that our views were taken into account, or that a readiness to take our concerns into account was demonstrated,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The Kremlin spokesman said it was however in both countries’ interests to continue the dialogue, though warned that remarks out of Washington and NATO about Russia’s main demands being unacceptable did not leave a lot of room for optimism.

He also described the current tensions as reminiscent of the Cold War era.

Close Putin ally calls for diplomacy

Russia and the US must engage in diplomacy to resolve the standoff, Medvedev has said, as he warned against stoking tensions to score political points.

“It’s obvious here that the most important and single route is actually to come to agreement on security guarantees, [through] political-diplomatic means, negotiations, the use of the principle of the indivisibility of security …” the RIA Novosti news agency quoted the former Russian president as saying.

A close ally of Putin, Medvedev said the idea of a conflict between Moscow and Washington over Ukraine would be a “catastrophic scenario” and voiced alarm that “hotheads” in the US and NATO were even contemplating such a scenario.

“I’m counting on that never happening,” he added.

Rouble recovers from near 15-month low

The rouble has pared early losses to strengthen, edging away from the near 15-month low hit against the dollar in the previous session, as escalating tensions over Ukraine continued to shake Russian markets.

Russia’s currency plunged to its lowest level since early November 2020 on Wednesday before making a partial comeback as the US said it had set out a diplomatic path to address Russia’s sweeping security demands.

By 07:36 GMT, the rouble was 0.5 percent stronger against the dollar at 79.06. It had dived to 80.4125 in the previous session. Against the euro, the rouble had gained 0.8 percent to trade at 88.65.

China urges ‘calm’ from all parties

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has told Blinken that Beijing wants to see all parties involved remain calm.

“We call on all parties to stay calm and refrain from doing things that agitate tensions and hype up the crisis,” Wang told the US secretary of state late on Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

In an apparent reference to Russia’s objections to NATO’s expansion, Wang also said that regional security could not be guaranteed by strengthening or even expanding military blocs.

Ceasefire violations on the rise in eastern Ukraine

Ceasefire violations are escalating in rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) recorded 403 violations, including 26 explosions, in the Donetsk region on Wednesday. That was up from 39 ceasefire violations on Tuesday and more than double the average figure for the previous seven days.

Meanwhile, in Luhansk, the OSCE’s monitoring mission recorded 57 ceasefire violations, including seven explosions. On Tuesday, it recorded 163 ceasefire violations in the region, a rise on the average figure for January.

A russian soldier attends a military exercising at the Golovenki training ground in Moscow
Russia has repeatedly denied having any plans to invade Ukraine and blames the US and NATO for the deteriorating security situation in the region [Russian Defence Ministry Press Service via AP]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies