Ukraine Russia war: Putin warned of ‘painful’ consequences after Biden U-turn on warships

Russia: Expert discusses tensions with Ukraine

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The embattled country’s foreign minister was joined by his counterparts from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – all NATO allies – in strongly condemned the military escalation by Russia in eastern Ukraine. Dmytro Kuleba’s warning came after the US did a swift U-turn on sending two warships to the Black Sea. President Joe Biden’s change of mind came a day after President Putin said the Americans should steer clear of the region “for their own good”.

Speaking at a news conference in Kyiv on Thursday, Mr Kuleba said Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia stand by Ukraine.

He said “Today, the four of us can firmly declare that we condemn the exacerbation of the situation by Russia, the actions and statements of Moscow aimed at escalating tensions.

“The world is on the side of Ukraine and international law, and this is one of the elements of restraining Russia from reckless actions.”

The US and NATO allies have been alarmed by the large build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine and in Crimea, the peninsula that Moscow annexed from Kyiv in 2014.

On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Mr Biden called on Russia to pull back troops and de-escalate tensions in the troubled region.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has appealed to Europe for more support in his country’s standoff with Moscow.

While Kyiv is pushing for full NATO membership, the alliance is showing little sign of honouring the request.

On Friday Mr Zelensky will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris to discuss the conflict in the Donbass region.

In an interview with French daily newspaper Le Fiagro, Mr Zelensky said: “If the EU and Emmanuel Macron consider us as a true member of the European family, they must act accordingly.”

He said that France, Germany and Brussels had already helped Ukraine a lot, notably with sanctions against Russia.

He added: “The discussion must also take place on security issues.

“The security of Europe depends on that of Ukraine…We cannot indefinitely remain in the waiting room of the EU or of NATO.”

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Ukraine and Russia have traded blame over a rise in violence in the region, where Ukrainian troops have battled Russian-backed forces in a conflict that Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people since 2014.

On Thursday the US announced a new round of sanctions against Russia.

They battered the rouble and state bonds but financial analysts said the punishments will not have a significantly adverse impact on the Russian budget and markets over the longer term.

President Biden said he told his Russian counterpart the US could have gone further with sanctions, but he chose not to do so.

The two men spoke on the phone on Tuesday, with Mr Biden telling Mr Putin he was concerned about the build-up of Russian troops on Ukrainian borders.

According to the White House there is now more Russian soldiers on the eastern borders of its neighbour than at any time since 2014.

A top American general in Europe has said there is a “low to medium” risk that Russia will invade Ukraine over the next few weeks.

Air Force General Tod Wolters declined to explain the intelligence driving his assessment, which does not suggest the US military expects a Russian invasion at this point, but is not ruling one out or playing down the risk.

Asked by a lawmaker to estimate the chances of an invasion in the next few weeks, Gen Wolters said: “Low to medium.”

Pressed by a different lawmaker to explain whether that risk would change after that period, Gen Wolters kept his cards close, saying: “The answer is, it depends.”

“And I would have to take each and every second of the day from this point till tomorrow to give you a different answer.”

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