British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Thursday that despite Russia’s claims, its military buildup around Ukraine “shows no signs of slowing down.”
“There is currently no evidence that forces are withdrawing. Russia must step back from the brink. The Kremlin has had every offer of diplomacy… Time after time, they have chosen not to engage with these proposals but to obfuscate and object,” Truss said in Kyiv following a meeting with her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba.
“Russia claims its being threatened, but what is the real threat? It’s not NATO’s defensive alliance; the real threat is more than 100,000 battle-ready troops massed on the border of this sovereign state,” she said.
“Russia thinks that NATO should not expand; the truth is that countries want to join NATO. People want insurance and they see safety in numbers, and this is only accelerated by Russia’s belligerence,” the foreign secretary added.
She went on to say that even if Russia pulls back from its border with Ukraine, the “problem will not have gone away. The free world needs to draw a line under a decade of drift.”
Truss said she was surprised by seeing “China’s leaders aligning themselves with the Kremlin” as Beijing claims “a policy of non-interference.”
“If China wants to be seen as a responsible global actor, they should be doing everything possible to ensure that Russia steps back,” she added.
Truss blamed Russia for “violating its commitments, and probing our weaknesses” for years and urged the West to “wise up.”
“In dangerous times, we have to take a hard-headed approach. That includes being ready to accept short-term pain for long-term gain, whether through imposing tough sanctions, for cutting strategic dependence by opposing Nord Stream 2,” she added.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday accused Russia of fabricating a pretext to invade Ukraine by attacking a kindergarten in Donbas.
Video and images confirmed by CNN show that a school in the Ukrainian-controlled territory was hit by a shell Thursday.
“We know [this] was a false flag operation designed to discredit the Ukrainians, designed to create a pretext, a spurious provocation for Russian action,” Johnson told reporters. “We fear very much that that is the kind of thing we’ll see more of over the next few days.”Both Ukrainian armed forces and separatists controlling parts of eastern Ukraine said there has been renewed shelling in the region. He reiterated that that the UK will apply heavy economic sanctions on Russia should it invade Ukraine, but continued: “I do think there is still time for the Putin regime to step back.”
“There’s still time to avoid a catastrophe, a catastrophe for Russia, a catastrophe for Ukraine and for the world,” he added.
“If Russia was so mad as to invade, I don’t think people should imagine that this will be a brief business. This will be a bloody and protracted conflict in which I’m afraid that there will be many casualties, including many Russian casualties and I just hope that people in Russia can see that for what it is,” Johnson said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he proposed meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Europe next week in a letter to continue the diplomatic path to resolving the crisis created by Russia massing troops near Ukraine’s borders, as well as meetings of the NATO-Russia Council and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
“These meetings can pave the way for a summit of key leaders in the context of de-escalation, to reach understandings on our mutual security concerns,” Blinken said at an address to the United Nations Security Council.
Blinken said these meetings present “every opportunity” for Russia to demonstrate its commitment to a diplomatic resolution.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was speaking to the United Nations about Russia and Ukraine “not to start a war, but to prevent one.”
“I am here today not to start a war, but to prevent one. The information I presented here is validated by what we’ve seen unfolding in plain sight before our eyes for months. And remember that while Russia has repeatedly derided our warnings and alarms as melodrama and nonsense, they’ve been steadily amassing more than 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders as well as the capabilities to conduct a massive military assault. It isn’t just us seeing this. Allies and partners see the same thing,” Blinken said.
He urged Russia to use diplomacy as a solution to the crisis.
“And Russia isn’t only hearing from us. The international chorus has grown louder and louder,” the US official said. “If Russia doesn’t invade Ukraine, then we will be relieved that Russia changed course and proved our predictions wrong. That would be a far better outcome than the course we’re currently on, and we’ll gladly accept any criticism that anyone directs at us.”
Blinken said he sent a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov proposing they meet next week in Europe. He is also proposing meetings of the NATO-Russia Council and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
“These meetings can pave the way for a summit of key leaders in the context of deescalation to reach understandings on our mutual security concerns. As lead diplomats for our nations, we have a responsibility to make every effort for diplomacy to succeed, to leave no diplomatic stone unturned,” he said.
He said Russia will likely respond with dismissals that the US is “stoking hysteria.”
“The Russian government can announce today with no qualifications, equivocation or deflection that Russia will not invade Ukraine, stated clearly, stated plainly to the world — and then demonstrate it by sending your troops, your tanks, your planes, back to hangars and sending diplomats to the negotiating table. In the coming days, the world will remember that commitment. Or the refusal to make it,” he concluded.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed misinformation that he said Russia continues to spread as it targets Ukraine and possible ways Moscow may attack, saying he hoped to “influence Russia to abandon the path of war and choose a different path while there’s still time.”
“We don’t know precisely how things will play out. But here’s what the world can expect to see unfold,” Blinken said.
“First, Russia plans to manufacture a pretext for its attack. … We don’t know exactly the form it will take. It could be a fabricated so-called terrorist bombing inside Russia. The invented discovery of the mass grave, a staged drone strike against civilians or a fake, even a real attack using chemical weapons,” he said.
“Russia may describe this event as ethnic cleansing or a genocide, making a mockery of a concept that we in this chamber do not take lightly, nor do I take lightly based on my family history. In the past few days, Russian media has already begun to spread some of these false alarms and claims to maximize public outrage, to lay the groundwork for an inventive justification for war. Today, that only intensified in Russia’s state controlled media. We’ve heard the allegations from Russian backed speakers here today,” Blinken continued.
Then, he said, “the highest levels of the Russian government may theatrically convene crisis and Russia must respond to defend citizens or ethnic Russians in Ukraine.”
There may be conventional attacks, or they could take the form of cyberattacks and could target specific groups of Ukrainians, he said.
He also warned that Russia is planning to “target specific groups of Ukrainians.”
CNN’s Michael Conte, Jennifer Hansler and Christin Sierra contributed reporting to this post.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the Ukraine-Russia crisis a “moment of peril” while addressing the United Nations Security Council in New York Thursday.
“The most immediate threat to peace and security is Russia’s looming aggression against Ukraine. The stakes go far beyond Ukraine. This is a moment of peril for the lives and safety of millions of people as well as for the foundation of the United Nations charter and the rules-based international order that preserves stability worldwide,” Blinken said.
“We must address what Russia is doing right now to Ukraine,” he said.
Blinken said that intelligence clearly indicates that the buildup of Russian forces signals an attack against Ukraine in “the coming days.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is addressing the United Nations Security Council as Ukraine-Russia tensions continue to unfold and the US warns an invasion could be near.
“Every indication that we have is that they are prepared to go into Ukraine, attack Ukraine,” President Biden told reporters as he left the White House on Thursday.
Russia expelled the second-most senior diplomat at the US embassy in Moscow without any justification Thursday, in what the Biden administration views as an escalatory move, the State Department said.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Blinken was addressing the UN because “this is a crucial moment.”
Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin today also said the US government is not seeing any kind of withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine’s border, instead seeing Russia adding to its capabilities and troops “even in the last couple of days.”
During a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Austin said the US is seeing Russia move some troops closer to the border, “fly in more combat and support aircraft,” “sharpen their readiness in the Black Sea” and even “stocking up their blood supplies.
Russia expelled the second-most senior diplomat at the US embassy in Moscow without any justification in what the Biden administration views as an “escalatory” move, the State Department said on Thursday.
“We can confirm that Russia expelled US Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) to Russia Bart Gorman. DCM Gorman was the second-most senior official at U.S. Embassy Moscow after the Ambassador and a key member of the Embassy’s senior leadership team,” a State Department spokesperson said.
Gorman departed Moscow last week, according to a senior State Department official, and returned to the US. He was expelled by Moscow earlier this year and was given two weeks to depart.
The US is considering its response.
“Russia’s action against our DCM was unprovoked and we consider this an escalatory step and are considering our response,” the spokesperson said.
This diplomatic issue comes to the fore amid growing concerns about a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
More background: Russia has continually forced the US to reduce the size of its diplomatic footprint in the country in recent years. Gorman’s tour in Russia had not ended, he had a valid visa, and he had been in Russia less than three years, the spokesperson added.
“We call on Russia to end its baseless expulsions of U.S. diplomats and staff and to work productively to rebuild our missions. Now more than ever, it is critical that our countries have the necessary diplomatic personnel in place to facilitate communication between our governments,” the spokesperson said.
Moscow said “increasing US and NATO military activity close to Russian borders is alarming” in its 11-page formal response published by state news agency RIA-Novosti to a written document from the United States over Russia’s security demands.
The written response, which was handed to US Ambassador John J. Sullivan at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday, said:
“We state that the American side did not give a constructive response to the basic elements of the project prepared by the Russian side agreements with the United States on security guarantees. It’s about giving up the further expansion of NATO, about the withdrawal of the ‘Bucharest formula’, whereby ‘Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO’, and the refusal to create military bases on the territory of states formerly part of the USSR and non-members of the NATO alliance, including the use of their infrastructure to conduct any military activity, and the return of NATO military capabilities, including strike capabilities, and infrastructure to the 1997 status, when the NATO-Russia Founding Act was signed. These stipulations are of fundamental importance to the Russian Federation.”
The response also said that US and NATO military activity in the region is “alarming.”
“Our ‘red lines’ and core security interests, as well as Russia’s sovereign right to protect them, continue to be ignored. Ultimate demands to withdraw troops from certain areas on Russian territory, accompanied by threats of tougher sanctions, are unacceptable and undermine the prospects for reaching real agreements,” it said.
Some more background: The US received the response from Russia today after the US gave a written document to Russia three weeks ago, a senior State Department official said.
The written document that the US gave to Russia had set “out a serious diplomatic path forward should Russia choose it,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in January.
Russian forces massed along Ukraine’s borders have increased by approximately 7,000 troops in recent days, the United States alleged Wednesday evening, despite claims from Moscow it was pulling back.
CNN’s Kylie Atwood and Kevin Liptak contributed reporting to this post.