Ukraine latest updates: US, Germany in ‘lockstep’, says Biden

Ukraine news from February 7: US president says allies will work together to deter Russian aggression in Europe.

President Joe Biden responds to reporters' questions during a meeting on efforts to lower prices for working families, in the East Room of the White House.
President Joe Biden says his country has the same approach with Germany on the Russia-Ukraine tensions [File: Andrew Harnik/AP]

United States President Joe Biden has said that his country and Germany are “in lockstep” on confronting Russia over Ukraine, after a meeting with German chancellor Olaf Schulz.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that Europe is going through its most dangerous moment since the Cold War amid fear of Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The statement came as French President Emmanuel Macron held talks in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the highest-profile intervention yet by a Western leader to ease the crisis.

Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops near the Ukraine border, with Western leaders raising alarms of a potential attack. Russia denies it is preparing for an invasion.

This live blog is now closed, thanks for joining us. Here are the updates for February 7.

Biden: US, Germany ‘in lockstep’ on confronting Russia over Ukraine

US President Joe Biden has said at a meeting with Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz that the two countries are “in lockstep” on confronting Russia over Ukraine.

“We’re working in lockstep to further deter Russian aggression in Europe,” as well as in meeting “challenges posed by China,” Biden said in the White House’s Oval Office.

Scholz, on his first trip to the White House since taking over from longtime German leader Angela Merkel, said their countries were the “closest allies and working intensely together.”

White House: US united with Germany to hold Russia accountable

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said the United States and Germany are united on trying to avert a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

She told reporters as US President Joe Biden met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that the two governments “are united in our efforts to hold them accountable”.

EU’s top diplomat: Europe in ‘most dangerous’ moment since Cold War

Europe is facing its most serious security threat since the Cold War, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has warned.

However, he stressed a diplomatic solution with Russia over Ukraine remains “possible” at a joint news conference in Washington with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“We are living, to my understanding, the most dangerous moment for security in Europe after the end of the Cold War,” Borrell told reporters.

The European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, addressing a conference in Brussels
EU foreign policy chief says a diplomatic solution with Russia over Ukraine remains ‘possible’ [File: Reuters]

EU, US pledge gas cooperation as tensions rise over Ukraine

The US and the EU have pledged to work to ensure gas supplies can respond to disruptions in pipeline gas flows, as tensions rise over the massing of troops on Ukraine’s borders by Russia, Europe’s biggest gas supplier.

“We’re working together right now to protect Europe’s energy supply against supply shocks, including those that could result from further Russian aggression against Ukraine,” Blinken said alongside Josep Borrell.

Europe’s dependence on Russian gas has come under scrutiny in recent months as lower than expected supply from Russia and rising tensions on the Ukrainian border.

Ukraine: Russia trying to ‘drive wedge’ between Kyiv and West

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has warned Moscow against trying to split Kyiv from its Western allies.

“No one, no matter how hard anyone tries in Russia, will be able to drive a wedge between Ukraine and its partners,” Kuleba said at a press conference with his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock in Kyiv.

“We have … jointly prepared a series of tough measures against Russia for this eventuality; these sanctions are unprecedented and have been coordinated and prepared with all partners,” Baerbock said on his part.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock attends a meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Kyiv
The two foreign ministers have met in the Ukrainian capital [Reuters]

Destroyed village in eastern Ukraine shows severity of years-long conflict

Scenes of destruction in a small village on the front line of the conflict in eastern Ukraine raise fears of a worsening humanitarian crisis.

The village in the Donbas region is almost abandoned now as the former residents are afraid of their safety.

“We have already lost all hope that someone cares about our lives,” one resident said.

Watch more here:

Separatist leader: Full-scale war in east Ukraine could break out any time

A Russian-backed separatist leader in eastern Ukraine has said that full-scale war could break out there at any time.

Denis Pushilin, head of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, said there was a high likelihood of a war that would bring huge casualties, although it would be “madness” to embrace such a conflict.

“First of all, we rely on ourselves, but we do not rule out that we will be forced to turn to Russia if Ukraine, with the support of Western countries, passes a certain line,” he told the Reuters news agency.

Germany’s Scholz: Russia will pay high price if it invades Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said there would be a very high price if Russia invades Ukraine amid US warnings of an imminent Russian invasion.

Scholz was speaking to reporters before a meeting later in the day with US President Joe Biden at the White House.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaking
German chancellor is scheduled to meet US President Biden [File: Getty Images]

Putin, Macron begin talks

The Russian and French leaders have sat down for their meeting.

“I am very happy to see you, dear Emmanuel,” Putin told Macron in televised remarks issued at the outset of the pair’s talks. The Russian president added that he hoped the discussions could start a “de-escalation” on Ukraine.

Stoltenberg says NATO weighing future presence in Eastern Europe

NATO is considering a longer-term military posture in Eastern Europe to strengthen its defences, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said.

“We are considering more longer-term adjustments to our posture, presence, in the eastern part of the alliance. No final decision has been made on that but there is a process now going on within NATO”, he told reporters in Brussels.

NATO currently has troops rotating in and out of eastern Europe, a so-called persistent, but not permanent, presence.

How do young Ukrainians and Russians feel about another war?

While tensions between Moscow and Kyiv reach boiling point, young people on both sides of the border have told Al Jazeera they hope for peace.

Read more here.

A young woman walks along Kyiv's main Khreschatyk Street
A Kyiv International Institute of Sociology survey from December indicates half of all 18 to 29-year-olds would move to another region in Ukraine or abroad if Russia invaded, the highest of any age group [File: Efrem Lukatsky/AP]

Germany to boost force numbers in Lithuania

Germany will send up to 350 more soldiers to Lithuania to help bolster the NATO alliance’s eastern flank, defence minister Christine Lambrecht has said.

“We are … strengthening our troop contribution on NATO’s eastern flank and sending a clear sign of our resolve to our allies,” Lambrecht said, adding that the soldiers will be deployed “within a few days”.

The message to the allies is “you can rely on us”, she added.

UK to deploy additional 350 troops to Poland

British defence minister Ben Wallace says the United Kingdom will send 350 troops to Poland.

The UK last year deployed 100 troops to Poland to help support it with a crisis at its border with Belarus.

“We will add to those … by sending a further 350 British troops to Poland as a bilateral deployment to show that we can work together and send a strong signal that Britain and Poland stand side by side,” Wallace said at a news conference alongside his Polish counterpart.

In Moscow, Macron is seen as ‘trying to make peace’

Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Moscow, says Macron is seen in the Russian capital as a “man who is trying to make peace”.

“He is coming here in the hopes of trying to clarify some of the sticking points that Russia has when it comes to NATO,” she said.

“There’s also a sense that Macron is trying to position himself to be seen as a peacemaker back home for a domestic audience,” Jabbari added, citing the upcoming French presidential election, which is scheduled to take place in April.

Intercepted communications reveal Russian officers have doubts about full-scale invasion: Report

CNN reports that intercepted messages obtained by the US reveal that some Russian officials are concerned a large-scale incursion into Ukraine would be costlier and more arduous than Putin and other top Kremlin figures realise, citing four sources said to be familiar with the intelligence.

Intelligence and military operatives were among the Russian officials to express doubt, three of the sources told the US news network.

“In the assessments, we see it is clear some people on the [Russian] defence side are not really understanding what the game plan is,” an unnamed senior European official was quoted as saying.

FM Kuleba sets out Kyiv’s ‘red lines’

Ukraine’s foreign minister has set out some of Kyiv’s “red lines” as diplomatic efforts to avert a feared Russian invasion continue.

“Among our red lines: no concessions on sovereignty, territorial integrity within internationally recognised borders, no ‘direct dialogue’ with Russian occupation administrations in Donetsk, Luhansk [and] only the people of Ukraine have the right to define foreign policy course,” Dmytro Kuleba tweeted, citing the separatist-held regions in eastern Ukraine.

Expats rally in Kyiv in show of solidarity with Ukraine

Expats in Kyiv have taken to the streets in a show of solidarity for Ukraine.

Attendees at Sunday’s rally said a few hundred people from all over the world – including the US, United Kingdom, Canada and Germany – marched in procession waving flags from their home country to show Ukraine their support.

The march was organised by Stuart McKenzie, 51, a Scottish businessman who has lived in the Ukrainian capital for 30 years.

“We stand by them [Ukrainains] in the streets and they know we love and respect them. We’re just hoping for a peaceful resolution,” McKenzie told Al Jazeera.

Expats are seen rallying in Kyiv in support of Ukraine
Attendees at Sunday’s rally said a few hundred people took part [Liz Cookman/Al Jazeera]

Ukraine to unleash ‘bloody hell’ on Russia if it invades: Expert

Al Jazeera spoke to Alexander Khara, a Ukrainian ex-defence official, about the possibilities of a major war with Russia.

Click here to read the interview.

UK says ‘NATO is a defensive alliance at its heart’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to offer Russia reassurance about NATO’s role because it is a defensive alliance and any European democracies should be able to join, his spokesman says.

“Russia has expressed concerns about potential NATO aggression, but we have been clear that those concerns are fundamentally unfounded as NATO is a defensive alliance at its heart,” Johnson’s spokesman said.

“But we do want to work with Russia to provide diplomatic reassurance on that front. It is not about making concessions as the PM and other western leaders have said all European democracies have a right to join NATO.”

INTERACTIVE- NATO members in Europe expand eastwards

Who are the Russia-backed separatists?

Since fighting broke out in eastern Ukraine in 2014, separatist rebels of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics have been accused of being proxies for Russian interests, if not simply Russian soldiers in disguise.

But who exactly are the rebels in the statelets known as the DPR and LPR, home to 2.3 million and 1.5 million people respectively?

Click here to find out more.

Rouble firms with Putin-Macron talks in focus

The rouble has recovered to a more than three-week high against the dollar ahead of Putin’s meeting with Macron.

As of 11:34 GMT, the Russian currency had gained 0.5 percent to 75.44 against the US dollar, its strongest level since January 13. Versus the euro, the rouble firmed 0.6 percent to 86.38.

The currency has steadily moved away from a near 15-month low of 80.4125 against the US dollar hit last month. Robust oil prices have helped nudge it back towards firmer footing as has the prospect of continued diplomacy between Moscow and the West.

Vendors count Russian rouble banknotes at a market in Omsk
The rouble has steadily moved away from a near 15-month low of 80.4125 against the US dollar hit last month [File: Alexey Malgavko/Reuters]

EU consulting gas suppliers amid Russia concerns

The European Union is talking to the US and other suppliers about increasing gas deliveries to Europe, amid concerns over supply from Russia, the chief of the bloc’s executive arm says.

“We are building a partnership for energy security with the United States, which is primarily about more LNG gas supplies. We are talking to other gas suppliers, for example, Norway, about increasing their supplies to Europe,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference.

The escalating tensions between the West and Moscow over Ukraine have raised concerns about Russian gas flows to Europe, with gas prices already soaring in recent months amid factors including lower-than-expected imports from Russia.

NATO eyeing Russia’s troop movements in Belarus

NATO is looking to increase its military presence in the Baltic states and Poland in case Russia keeps its troops in Belarus after a planned military exercise, the head of the alliance’s military committee has said.

“Where do we have troops in the alliance continuously, in the different nations – the debate about that is the result of things that are ongoing now. Yes, we are looking at it. There might be changes in the future as a result of these developments,” Rob Bauer, a Dutch admiral who heads NATO’s top military strategy body, told a news conference in Vilnius.

“It very much depends, of course, on whether the Russian troops in Belarus remain in Belarus,” he added.

Ukraine to discuss ‘unfair’ German military hardware stance with FM

Ukraine’s foreign minister says he will raise the issue of Berlin’s refusal to provide Kyiv with military hardware with his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock when the pair hold talks in the Ukrainian capital later.

“Germany has repeatedly and publicly explained this decision. We consider these explanations regarding Ukraine to be unfair. We believe that there is a wider space for Germany to act,” Dmytro Kuleba told a briefing. “We must respect the position of the state, but this does not mean that we should not work with it.”

Germany’s Scholz to meet French, Polish presidents

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will meet Macron and Polish President Andrzej Duda in Berlin on Tuesday, a German government spokesperson says.

A Normandy format discussion – involving France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia – at the adviser level could also happen this week, the spokesperson added.

Scholz is set to meet US President Joe Biden at the White House later.

INTERACTIVE- Conflict between Ukraine and Russia at a glance

Borderlands: Fear, uncertainty and life on Ukraine’s front line

Amid fears of a Russian invasion, war-weary residents of eastern Ukraine who have endured more than seven years of a protracted conflict are questioning what the future holds for the region – and for their lives.

Read more here.

US military transport planes bring troops to Poland

Two US military transport planes have landed at a Polish airport, with more expected to arrive later, bringing the bulk of the extra troops that President Joe Biden ordered to Europe last week.

After the planes were seen touching down at the Rzeszow-Jasionka airport in southeastern Poland, an airport employee told Reuters three more were expected. A Polish military spokesperson also said more planes were anticipated to arrive on Monday, but did not say how many.

Biden has ordered nearly 3,000 soldiers to move to Eastern Europe to protect the eastern flank of NATO from the possibility of a Russian attack on Ukraine.

France’s role in the crisis

  • France has played a central role in attempting to mediate. Alongside Germany, it helped broker a 2015 peace deal after Moscow annexed Crimea.
  • The Minsk agreement helped stop large-scale fighting, but skirmishes have continued ever since.
  • Putin has urged France and its allies to push Ukraine to fulfil its obligations under the 2015 agreement, which envisaged broad autonomy for the rebel-held east and amnesty for Russia-backed separatists.
  • But many in Ukraine see the Minsk deal as a betrayal of national interests.
  • In recent months, France committed to moving more troops to Romania to prepare for a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Kremlin expects no decisive breakthrough from Putin-Macron meeting

The Kremlin has said it does not anticipate any decisive breakthrough during the talks between Putin and Macron, but expects that the French leader will propose ways to ease tensions in Europe.

“The situation is too complex to expect decisive breakthroughs in the course of one meeting,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a news briefing.

But he said Russia was aware of certain ideas for lowering tensions that Macron had spoken about before and planned to share with Putin.

Peskov added that Moscow had heard nothing new in recent days on the security guarantees it is requesting. “Our Western interlocutors prefer not to mention this topic,” he said.

UK FM may visit Russia: Report

Moscow and London are discussing a possible visit by British Foreign Minister Liz Truss to Moscow on Thursday, the RIA Novosti news agency quotes Russia’s foreign ministry as saying.

Russia links US nuclear arms talks to security demands: Report

The fate of nuclear arms control talks between Russia and the US will, to a large extent, depend on how negotiations on Moscow’s security demands progress, a senior Russian diplomat has been quoted as saying.

Vladimir Yermakov, head of nuclear non-proliferation and controls at Russia’s foreign ministry, told the RIA Novosti news agency that discussions over the Kremlin’s proposals have taken priority over strategic arms controls talks.

No meetings have been agreed on the latter, and their resumption now depends largely on resolving the immediate security issues raised by Moscow, he said.

Top Biden aide says Ukraine invasion could come ‘any day’

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has said Russia could invade Ukraine “any day”.

“It could happen as soon as tomorrow or it could take some weeks yet,” he warned on Sunday.

“If war breaks out, it will come at an enormous human cost to Ukraine, but we believe that based on our preparations and our response, it will come at a strategic cost to Russia as well,” Sullivan added.

Ukraine dismisses ‘apocalyptic predictions’ over Russia

Ukraine’s foreign minister has dismissed “apocalyptic predictions” of a possibly imminent full-scale invasion by Russia after US officials said Moscow had assembled 70 percent of the military forces needed for such a move.

“Do not believe the apocalyptic predictions. Different capitals have different scenarios, but Ukraine is ready for any development,” Kuleba tweeted on Sunday.

Read more here.

Australian PM reiterates call for citizens to leave Ukraine

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said he is “highly concerned” about the crisis and has reiterated his government’s call for Australians to leave Ukraine.

Morrison told reporters in Canberra that consular officials have been working for weeks to convey the message to those who remain in Ukraine that “it is time to leave if you wish to leave”.

He also called on Russia to continue discussions to resolve the situation.

A veteran of the Ukrainian National Guard Azov battalion conducts military exercises for civilians in Kyiv
A veteran of the Ukrainian National Guard Azov battalion conducts military exercises for civilians in Kyiv [File: Gleb Garanich/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies