Latest Ukraine updates: Scholz warns Russia of consequences

Ukraine news from February 10: Olaf Scholz warns Russia of ‘serious’ economic and political consequences in the event of an invasion.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attends a press conference with the leaders of the three Baltic states
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attends a news conference with the leaders of the three Baltic states, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Latvia Prime Minister Karins, before consultations on Ukraine crisis, at the Chancellery, Berlin [Christophe Gateau/AP Photo]

Russia’s foreign minister gave his United Kingdom counterpart a frosty welcome in Moscow on Thursday, accusing her of grandstanding at a rancorous encounter that highlighted the gulf between them over the Ukraine crisis.

“I’m honestly disappointed that what we have is a conversation between a dumb and a deaf person … Our most detailed explanations fell on unprepared soil,” Sergey Lavrov told reporters, standing alongside Liz Truss.

He added that the “facts” presented by his team on the crisis “bounced off” their UK counterparts.

Truss challenged Lavrov on Russia’s insistence that its military buildup near Ukraine does not directly threaten anyone.

“I can’t see any other reason for having 100,000 troops stationed on the border, apart from to threaten Ukraine. And if Russia is serious about diplomacy, they need to remove those troops and desist from the threats,” she said, as she dismissed Moscow’s claim that NATO is undermining the region’s security.

This live blog is now closed, thanks for joining us. Here are the updates for February 10.

Eastern Europe will need bolstered NATO for foreseeable future: Latvia PM

Eastern Europe will need a bolstered NATO presence for the foreseeable future, Latvia Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins has said.

“It is very much needed that Germany is not only present in the Baltics, but also takes a leading role to lead the European Union and NATO through these difficult times,” Karins said before the meeting with Scholz, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda.

Russia should ‘not underestimate our resolve’ in Ukraine crisis: Scholz

Russia should not underestimate the West’s resolve in responding to any escalation in the Ukraine-Russia crisis, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said.

“What is at stake at the moment is nothing less than preventing a war in Europe. We want peace,” Scholz told reporters at a meeting with Baltic state leaders in Berlin, calling for Russia to de-escalate.

“In this critical situation for all of us, Russia should not underestimate our unity and determination as a partner in the EU and as an ally in NATO,” Scholz said.

“We take the concerns of our allies very seriously,” he added. “At the same time, we are ready for serious talks with Russia, for a dialogue on European security issues.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, center left, speaks during a press conference with the leaders of the three Baltic states
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, centre left, speaks during a news conference with the leaders of the three Baltic states, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, left, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Latvia Prime Minister Karins, right, before consultations on the Ukraine crisis, at the Chancellery, Berlin [Christophe Gateau/AP Photo]

UK legislates for tougher Russia sanctions

The United  Kingdom has published new legislation broadening the scope of those linked to Russia who could be sanctioned in the event that Moscow decides to invade Ukraine.

The legislation included a power to sanction people who are, or have been “involved in (i) destabilising Ukraine or undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty or independence of Ukraine, or (ii) obtaining a benefit from or supporting the Government of Russia”.

Estonia leader calls on West to remain ‘united’ against Russia

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has called on the West to stand united and persevere amid intense diplomatic efforts to prevent war.

“Our unity in Europe is of key importance at the moment. We must have strategic patience,” she told the DPA news agency before a trip to Germany.

“The unity has held up so far and we are all working together to stay strong and united against Russian aggression – aggression that does not only affect Ukraine but Europe in general.”

US F-15 fighter jets land in Poland, minister says

American F-15 jets have landed at a Polish air base, Warsaw’s defence minister said, as NATO beefs up the military presence on its eastern flank.

“Today, American F15 fighters have arrived at the air base in Lask, they will support the eastern flank as part of the NATO Air Policing mission,” Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on Twitter.

The defence minister did not say how many F-15s landed at the base. American F-15 jets have also been sent to the Baltics.

Where are Russian troops stationed?

Al Jazeera has put together the following infographic demonstrating where Russia has deployed its forces near the border with Ukraine and in neighbouring Belarus.

INTERACTIVE- Where are Russian troops stationed?

Day of diplomatic talks in Berlin

Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane, reporting from Berlin, says senior advisers from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France are holding talks in the German capital over the Ukraine crisis.

“They can be seen as the facilitators [for more discussions]… it is talks about talks as it were and a way of trying to see what each government’s potential room for compromise might be and areas where they really can’t compromise,” he said.

Separate to the so-called “Normandy Format” discussions, the heads of government of the Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – were meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.

Ukraine: Rising tensions put Crimean Tatar Muslims at risk again

Forced from their homes in 1944, during World War II, and in 2014, when Moscow annexed Russia’s Crimean Peninsula, Crimean Tatars fear the effect of yet more tensions.

Read more here.

Rouble steady after hitting strongest point since early 2022

The rouble is steady against the US dollar after earlier hitting its strongest point since early January.

As of 14:22 GMT, the rouble was 0.1 percent weaker against the US dollar at 74.80, having earlier touched its strongest mark since January 3 of 74.2550.

The Russian currency had gained 0.2 percent to 85.11 versus the euro.

A huge sell-off last month amid the tensions over Ukraine saw the rouble drop to 80.4125 against the US dollar, a nearly 15-month low.

A customer is seen handing over Russian rouble banknotes and coins to a vendor at a market in Omsk, Russia
The Ukraine crisis has contributed to large fluctuations in the rouble’s value against the US dollar in recent weeks [File: Alexey Malgavko/Reuters]

The Ukraine-Russia crisis in infographics

Al Jazeera has put together a series of infographics that explain the background of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

Have a look here.

INTERACTIVE- Conflict between Ukraine and Russia at a glance

Denmark, US start discussions on new defence agreement

Denmark and the United States have begun talks about a new defence agreement that could see American troops and military equipment deployed on Danish soil, the country’s prime minister says.

“Such an agreement directly between the United States and Denmark will open up for a new cooperation and activities in a number of selected military areas in Denmark,” Mettle Frederiksen told a news briefing.

The talks, which were requested by the US, come after Washington has strengthened military cooperation with Norway and the Baltic countries in recent years. The US has also moved to deploy extra troops to Eastern Europe amid the current tensions over Ukraine.

What did Lavrov and Truss say?

Here are the top lines from the tense encounter between Lavrov and Truss:

  • Lavrov accused his British counterpart of ignoring Moscow’s concerns and explanations while repeating statements and demands that London had made before.
  • “They say Russia is waiting until the ground freezes like a stone so its tanks can easily cross into Ukrainian territory. I think the ground was like that today with our British colleagues, from which numerous facts that we produced bounced off,” he said.
  • Truss called on Moscow to pull back its troops from near the border with Ukraine and challenged the Kremlin’s assertion that the buildup was not a threat to anyone.
  • “If Russia is serious about diplomacy, they need to remove those troops and desist from the threats,” she said.

Russia has not ruled out evacuating diplomats from Ukraine: Report

The TASS news agency quotes Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko as saying Moscow has not ruled out evacuating its diplomats from Ukraine to protect them from provocations by Kyiv and third countries.

The United States, UK and Canada have all recently taken moves to withdraw the relatives of their embassy personnel in Ukraine from the country.

EU delivers collective reply to Russian security proposals

The European Union says it has delivered a collective response to Russia’s proposals to member states on European security.

A spokesman for the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, told a regular news briefing that EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell had decided to reply to Moscow on behalf of all 27 member states in order to demonstrate unity.

Russia’s embassy to the EU said in a statement that it had received the letter, the contents of which were not made public by either side.

Lavrov had earlier warned that a collective response from the EU to his correspondence to all of the bloc’s member states at the end of January would lead to a breakdown in talks.

Ex-Russian separatists on whether another Ukraine war is possible

Al Jazeera has spoken to some of the men who left Russia in 2014 to join rebels in eastern Ukraine about their experiences in the Donbas conflict and views on what might happen next in the current standoff.

Find out what they had to say here.

Lithuania to supply Ukraine with Stinger missiles within days: PM

Ukraine will receive Stinger anti-aircraft missiles from Lithuania within days, Lithuania’s prime minister Ingrida Simonyte has said.

“We are increasing the number of military instructors in the country and providing Ukraine with additional weapons and equipment,” Simonyte said while on a visit to Kyiv, adding that he hoped and wished the Stinger missiles never needed to be used.

Ukraine has received planeloads of military aid from NATO member states in recent weeks as Kyiv’s supporters have rallied to shore up the country’s defences.

A service member of the Ukrainian armed forces uses periscopes while observing the area at fighting positions on the line of separation near the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine
Kyiv and its Western allies have been spooked by Moscow’s massing of more than 100,000 soldiers near Ukraine [File: Serhiy Takhmazov/Reuters]

Moscow and Minsk ‘flexing their muscles’

Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from Minsk, says Belarus and Russia are “flexing their muscles … on an unprecedented scale” with their joint military drills.

The Kremlin has described the exercises as a response to the “unprecedented threat to Russia’s borders coming from NATO”, she said.

“They are simulating an invasion from NATO trying to topple the Belarusian president … but there is a lot of speculation about these war games, and whether they are a smokescreen for a possible invasion [of Ukraine],” Vaessen added, noting the manoeuvers were taking place very near to Ukraine and only two hours away from Kyiv.

What is happening with the military drills?

Moscow and Minsk have started 10 days of joint military drills in Belarus. Here are five things to know:

  • Moscow says the aim of the exercises is to “practise suppressing and repelling external aggression”.
  • About 30,000 Russian soldiers are thought to be involved but neither country has disclosed details on the numbers taking part.
  • Russia says its troops will return once the exercises are complete.
  • Kyiv has slammed the war games as “psychological pressure from our neighbours” and launched drills in response.
  • Ukraine will use its Turkish-made Bayraktar drones and anti-tank Javelin and NLAW missiles in the exercises.

Read more here.

Lavrov says ‘London is not hearing Moscow’

Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Moscow, says it was quickly clear how “icy” the exchange between Truss and Lavrov was when the pair emerged from their talks to address a news conference.

“The Russian foreign minister says that London is not hearing Moscow,” she said. “Clearly, the two ministers did not see eye-to-eye … there is a huge gap between the two sides, which has only been highlighted by this meeting today.”

UK FM denounces Russia’s ‘aggression’ in tense exchange with Lavrov

Truss says Russia’s “aggression and attempts to re-litigate the past” are undermining the country’s international standing.

“These acts have actually had the effect of strengthening NATO’s resolve and turning the Ukrainian people further away from Russia,” she told a news conference in Moscow, standing alongside Lavrov.

The UK’s foreign minister also called for Russia to withdraw its forces from near Ukraine’s border in a tense exchange of views between the pair.

Lavrov, for his part, dismissed demands for Moscow to pull back troops from its own territory as regrettable and likened his meeting with Truss to a “conversation between a dumb and a deaf person”.

‘Warning time’ for possible Russian attack decreasing, NATO chief cautions

The number of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine is going up and the warning time for a possible attack is shrinking, NATO’s secretary-general has warned.

“This is a dangerous moment for European security,” Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference after a meeting in Brussels with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“The number of Russian forces is going up. The warning time for a possible attack is going down,” he said. “NATO is not a threat to Russia, but we must be prepared for the worst while remaining strongly committed to finding a political solution.”

INTERACTIVE- NATO members in Europe expand eastwards

‘We must draw lines in the snow’: UK PM

Johnson has called for Europe to hold firm over Ukraine’s right to join NATO amid demands from Moscow that its neighbour never be permitted to become a member of the alliance.

“As an alliance, we must draw lines in the snow and be clear there are principles upon which we will not compromise,” the British prime minister said. “That includes the security of every NATO ally and the right of every European democracy to aspire to NATO membership.”

Ukraine slams Russian Black Sea naval drills

Ukraine’s foreign ministry has sharply criticised Russian naval exercises near its southern coast, saying the drills have made navigation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov “virtually impossible”.

The ministry said in a statement that Moscow’s actions “show blatant disregard for the rules and principles of international law” and that Kyiv would work together with partner countries to prepare a response.

“Such aggressive actions by the Russian Federation as part of its hybrid war against Ukraine are unacceptable,” the statement said.

Ukraine invasion would be disastrous, UK warns Russia

Truss has again warned Moscow that an invasion of Ukraine would be disastrous for Russia, Ukraine, and Europe, and would carry severe costs.

“Fundamentally, a war in Ukraine would be disastrous for the Russian and Ukrainian people and for European security and together NATO has made it clear that any incursion into Ukraine would have massive consequences and carry severe costs,” the British foreign minister told Lavrov during her visit to the Russian capital.

French FM expresses hope Russia will continue talks

Russia being willing to continue four-way diplomatic talks on the conflict in eastern Ukraine would be a positive signal from the discussions in Berlin, France’s foreign minister has said.

Speaking to France Inter radio, Jean-Yves Le Drian said the general situation was extremely worrying. He also denounced the joint Russia-Belarus military exercises as “a very violent gesture”.

Putin praises Russian diplomacy, stresses need for security guarantees

Putin has praised Russia’s diplomats for their “duty” in a statement issued to his country’s foreign ministry.

“Our diplomacy helps to defend the legitimate rights of Russian citizens and compatriots abroad, contributes to the settlement of regional conflicts and crises, and most importantly, plays an important role in creating favourable external conditions for the progressive development of the country,” Putin said.

But, he warned, the world was “becoming more and more turbulent and tense”, in an apparent reference to the East-West standoff over Ukraine.

“This, of course, requires additional persistent efforts to ensure strategic stability and [to] counteract emerging threats and challenges, first of all, by seeking comprehensive, legally enforceable security guarantees for our country from the United States and its NATO allies,” Putin said.

‘Psychological pressure’: Zelenskyy denounces Russia-Belarus drills

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has denounced the war games launched by Russia and Belarus.

“The accumulation of forces at the border is psychological pressure from our neighbours. We see nothing new here,” Zelenskyy’s office quoted him as telling a group of European business leaders in Kyiv on Wednesday.

“The risks are there and have been there since 2014,” he said in reference to the year Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and then backed separatist rebels as they seized swaths of territory in the country’s eastern industrial heartland.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies