Ukraine conflict: weapons and words |

Status: 02/01/2022 7:39 p.m

Efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine conflict are in full swing. Statesmen and foreign ministers are talking about a “large-scale war in Europe” that they want to prevent. Kremlin boss Putin is also willing to continue to talk.

Russia is open to further talks with the West to resolve the conflict over Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin said. At the same time, he accused the United States and its allies of ignoring his country’s most important security requirements. “We are carefully analyzing the written responses from the United States and NATO,” Putin said after talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Putin again warned that a country cannot enforce its own security at the expense of another country’s interests. Nevertheless, he emphasized: “I hope that we will find a solution in the end.” This will “not be easy”. Washington’s main goal is to “contain” Russia. “Ukraine is just a tool to engage us in an armed conflict,” Putin said. He criticized the fact that Russia’s demand for an end to NATO’s eastward expansion had been rejected.

In the past few weeks, Russia has massed more than 100,000 soldiers and heavy equipment on the Ukrainian border. The deployment of troops fuels fears that Russia is planning a major attack on Ukraine. The Kremlin denies any plans to attack Ukraine, but at the same time argues that it feels threatened by NATO.

Blinken calls on Moscow to withdraw troops immediately

In a telephone call, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov that Russia must immediately withdraw its troops from the Ukrainian border. A Russian invasion of the neighboring country would have “rapid and serious consequences,” Blinken warned. In the crisis, Russia must continue to “follow a diplomatic path”.

Blinken reiterated US support for Ukraine’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity” and for each country’s right to determine its own “foreign policy and alliances.” The latter is a reference to Ukraine’s ambitions to join NATO, which Russia flatly opposes. At the same time, Blinken emphasized the willingness of the US government to hold further consultations with Russia on security issues.

Confusion over alleged Russian response

Last week, the United States and NATO responded in writing to Russian demands for “security guarantees.” In the letters, Washington and NATO rejected a declaration by NATO to renounce further eastward expansion and the withdrawal of US weapons from states in the former Soviet sphere of influence, as demanded by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Interfax agency that Moscow has not yet responded to these letters. He contradicted statements by the US State Department, according to which the Russian letter was received on Monday evening (local time). A letter to the US side is still being prepared, Peskow said.

West calls on Kiev and Moscow to de-escalate

The West’s efforts to detente have intensified in recent days. Putin telephoned French President Emmanuel Macron twice. According to the Kremlin, a face-to-face meeting between the two heads of state is being prepared. France currently also holds the EU Council Presidency and has been mediating with Germany in the Ukraine conflict for years. In a telephone conversation with Putin, Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi warned of “serious consequences” if the crisis worsened.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to call Putin on Wednesday. He, as well as Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, meanwhile, visited the Ukrainian capital to contribute to de-escalation and to give President Wlodymyr Zelenskyj a helping hand. Poland and the Netherlands have already offered Ukraine supplies of military equipment, and Britain has already supplied arms.

“This will be a large-scale war in Europe”

Johnson and Zelenskyy warned Russia against invading Ukraine. That would be “a massive strategic mistake and would have high humanitarian costs,” according to a statement after the meeting of the two statesmen. The Ukrainian army will put up “violent and bloody resistance,” Johnson said. This message must be clear to the Russian public and “Russian mothers”. He very much hopes that Putin will withdraw his military from the Ukrainian border and focus on diplomacy.

Zelenskyy agreed with the prime minister: “The Ukrainians will defend themselves to the last.” The Russians had to understand that a war would end in tragedy. The country, the people and the army had changed. “Now there will be no simple occupation of any city or region,” emphasized the 44-year-old. “Therefore, I say openly that there will be no war between Ukraine and Russia. It will be a large-scale war in Europe.”

Crisis session in the UN Security Council

Christiane Meier, ARD New York, daily news at 12:00 p.m., February 1, 2022

Zelenskyj wants to increase the armed forces

Meanwhile, Zelenskyy signed a decree to expand the country’s armed forces by 100,000 troops to a total of 350,000 over the next three years. An increase in salary is also planned.

Ukraine’s president, who has been trying to calm tensions in the country over the past few days over fears of an imminent invasion, said he “didn’t sign this decree because of a war.” Instead, it serves peace. The decree also provides for an end to compulsory military service from January 1, 2024. In addition, Zelenskyj declared that Ukraine would enter into a new trilateral alliance with Great Britain and Poland.

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