Ukraine Crisis Live Updates: Russia Says Army Convoys Leave Crimea | Ukraine-Russia crisis
Moscow announced a withdrawal of forces from the annexed Crimean peninsula after its demand for a military withdrawal near Ukraine’s borders was met with skepticism by Western powers, who warned that the Kremlin can, on the contrary, mass more troops near its neighbor.
In a statement on Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry said the units were withdrawing from training grounds in Crimea to their permanent bases after the completion of military exercises in the Black Sea peninsula, which Moscow had withdrawn from. seized in early 2014.
It came after the United States and the Washington-led transatlantic military alliance NATO said on Wednesday they had seen no evidence of a withdrawal of forces by Russia.
Here are all the latest updates:
NATO “deadly serious” in the face of the Russian threat
Britain’s defense secretary said NATO would continue to bolster its eastern flank to counter threats from Russia and repeated accusations that the Kremlin was building up forces around Ukraine’s borders.
“We are extremely serious about how we are going to deal with the current threat to Ukraine and potentially to our security,” Ben Wallace said ahead of a second day of talks between alliance defense ministers. at its headquarters in Brussels. .
“This is not a joke or a light question. This is a real challenge for the stability of Europe,” he added, before saying that Russia was continuing to build up troops around Ukraine’s borders, despite Moscow’s claims of a withdrawal.
“I think we saw the opposite of some statements. We have seen an increase in troops over the last 48 hours – up to 7,000… We will take them at their word but we will judge Russia on their actions and at the moment the troop build-up continues,” Wallace said.
Russia to Respond to US Security Proposals Soon
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would send a response to US proposals on European security later today to Washington.
“We will send this letter to the US side today,” Lavrov told a news conference after talks with his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio, adding that the content of the response will be made public. .
Moscow has demanded that the United States and NATO guarantee that Ukraine will never be allowed to join the alliance. He also asked NATO to cease all military activities in Eastern Europe.
These requests were flatly rejected, but the United States sent counter-proposals to Moscow aimed at defusing tensions by finding common ground on other security issues.
UK Foreign Secretary warns Russia could prolong Ukraine crisis ‘for months’
Russia could still simmer tensions over Ukraine for “months”, the UK foreign secretary has warned ahead of a visit to Kiev.
Writing in Britain’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Liz Truss said the Kremlin may be deliberately prolonging the crisis “in a brazen ploy to spend weeks – if not months – more overthrowing Ukraine and challenging Western unity”. .
“We cannot allow this situation to become a common plague,” she added.
Truss’ visit to Kyiv will see her hold talks with her Ukrainian counterpart, after which she will travel to Warsaw to meet the Polish foreign minister. His whirlwind diplomatic tour will also include a visit to the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.
The UK supports Ukraine in the face of unprovoked Russian aggression. 🇺🇦🇬🇧
Now is the time to defend the right of nations to choose their own security arrangements. Read my @Telegraph piece 👇https://t.co/OVixItfWDb
— Liz Truss (@trussliz) February 17, 2022
Russia says troops and tanks are returning to bases after drills
The Russian Defense Ministry said troops, tanks and other military vehicles were returning from the country’s Western Military District to their bases after the end of the war games.
“A military train carrying personnel and equipment associated with tank units of the Western Military District has started returning to their permanent bases after completing drills at training grounds,” the ministry said in a statement.
He did not specify where the forces had been deployed, but said they would be transported by rail approximately 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) to their garrisons.
Allegations of attacks on Moscow-backed separatists ‘widely reported in Russia’
Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Kyiv, said a series of suspected attacks by Ukrainian forces on separatist rebels in conflict-hit eastern Ukraine are “widely reported in Russia”.
“It’s not big news at all, there are times when these kinds of skirmishes happen on a daily basis, but the key to this is the publicity given to the story in Russia,” he said. .
“There is a connection here with the warnings that have been given by the United States and NATO of a possible pretext for major action by Russian forces massed around Ukraine’s borders…all it takes is a incident that could be an excuse for Russia to act, not necessarily a full invasion, but action in disputed areas held by Russian-backed separatists.
Russia announces new military withdrawal from annexed Crimea
Russia has announced a further withdrawal of military forces from the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow seized in early 2014.
“Units of the Southern Military District that have terminated tactical exercises at training grounds on the Crimean Peninsula are returning by rail to their permanent bases,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement released by the agencies. Russian press.
State television, meanwhile, showed columns of military equipment crossing a recently built bridge linking the peninsula to the Russian mainland.
Russia offers fast-track passports to Ukrainian rebel-held areas
More than 720,000 residents of rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine have received Russian citizenship and passports, reports the Associated Press.
The fast-track is seen by Kyiv as an attempt to underline Russia’s influence in the region.
Besides the fast track to citizenship, Russia has offered residents of the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk membership in the ruling Kremlin party and other perks, such as its COVID vaccines or trade preferences for local manufacturers. .
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba last week urged the European Union to impose sanctions on Russia for “its illegal mass issuance of Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens”.
“Day of Unity” held in Ukraine
As tensions continue to simmer, Ukrainians staged a show of defiance amid fears of a Russian invasion.
The yellow and blue national flag flew in front of schools, hospitals and many shops on Wednesday to mark a “day of unity” called for by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
See photos here.
G20 financial leaders meeting begins with warning to Ukraine
Finance ministers and central bank governors from G20 countries kicked off a two-day meeting in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, with a warning about the Ukraine crisis, saying escalating tensions between Russia and the former Soviet republic poses a threat to the world. economy recovery after coronavirus pandemic.
“Now is not the time to compete and create new tensions that disrupt the…recovery, let alone endanger the security of the world, as is happening in Ukraine,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in opening the meeting.
“All parties must stop the rivalry and the tension,” he added.
Ukrainian rebels accuse government forces of mortar attack
Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have accused government forces of opening fire on their territory multiple times in the past 24 hours and said they were trying to establish whether anyone one had been injured or killed.
These claims were made in a statement released by representatives of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic. He said Ukrainian forces used mortars, grenade launchers and a machine gun in four separate incidents.
There was no immediate reaction from Ukraine or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is monitoring the situation in eastern Ukraine but has withdrawn some of its monitors the last days.
Such incidents have occurred several times over the past eight years. But any escalation in the years-long conflict between Russian-backed separatists, who seized a swath of territory in eastern Ukraine in 2014, could further stoke tensions between Russia and the West.