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What to know amid fears of war

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What to know amid fears of war

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WARSAW, Poland — High-stakes diplomacy continued Friday in a bid to avert a war in Eastern Europe. The urgent efforts come as 100,000 Russian troops are massed near the Ukrainian border and the Biden administration fears Russian President Vladimir Putin could stage some kind of invasion within weeks.

Here are some things to know about international tensions around Ukraine.

A diplomatic stalemate

The head of Russian diplomacy said on Friday that Moscow would not start a war but neither would it allow the West to trample its security interests.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there was little room for compromise after the West rejected key Russian demands that NATO would never accept Ukraine as a member and cancel deployments in Eastern Europe.

Lavrov said “if they say they won’t change their positions, we won’t change ours.”

He noted, however, that the United States – in a recent written response to Russian requests – suggested the two sides could discuss other important issues. These include limits on the deployment of intermediate-range missiles, restrictions on military exercises and rules to prevent accidents between warships and aircraft.

The French connection

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin for more than an hour on Friday, and a French official said he spoke “about the need for de-escalation”.

The official, who spoke on the usual condition of anonymity, said in the call Putin expressed his commitment to the year-long round of talks between Ukraine and Russia, with a further meeting scheduled for Berlin in two weeks.

But he made no concessions regarding the tens of thousands of soldiers massed on Ukraine’s borders and insisted that Kiev resolve the legal status of pro-Russian separatists in its east.

The manager described the conversation as “serious, respectful. … The tone was serious because the situation is getting worse, but it was an engaged dialogue.

Russia suspends military inspections

Germany regretted that Russia had suspended mutual military inspections at a time of heightened tensions.

They are designed as confidence-building measures between the members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

A Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Russia recently announced it would suspend inspections until the end of February, citing the spread of the omicron variant.

“Because of this, an inspection on Russian territory in the border region of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, which Russia had previously agreed to, will currently not be possible,” the spokesperson said, Christopher Burger.

“We expressly regret this step because, especially in the current situation, anything that creates greater transparency would help reduce tensions,” he said.

Burger said Russia also canceled inspections it was due to conduct in Germany.

Exposing misinformation carries risks

In a break from the past, the United States and its allies are increasingly revealing their intelligence findings, seeking to expose Putin’s plans on Ukraine and deflect his efforts to shape world opinion.

In recent weeks, the White House has gone public with what it called a Russian “false flag” operation to create a pretext for an invasion.

Britain has named Ukrainians accused of having links to Russian intelligence agents plotting to overthrow Zelenskyy. The United States also released a map of Russian military positions and detailed how officials believe Russia will attempt to attack Ukraine with up to 175,000 troops.

But disclosing information is not without risks. Intelligence assessments come with varying degrees of certainty, and beyond offering photos of troop movements, the United States and its allies have provided little other evidence. Moscow cited past failures of US intelligence services, including false information about Iraq’s weapons programs.

And those German howitzers?

German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said a decision had not yet been made on whether to approve Estonia’s request to transfer artillery guns to Ukraine.

Germany originally owned the howitzers and sold them to Finland who later sold them to Estonia.

Hebestreit warned on Friday against pursuing what he called “military logic” amid demands for German approval to deliver the howitzers to Ukraine.

“If needed, that wouldn’t be a real solution either,” Hebestreit said. “It’s not a game-changer now.”

Will Russian gas continue to flow?

Germany says Russia remains a reliable natural gas supplier, but is still preparing for all scenarios.

Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit made the remark on Friday amid fears Russia could cut off natural gas supplies to Europe.

“From our point of view, Russian gas supply contracts are fulfilled everywhere so far and we firmly assume that this will remain the case,” Hebestreit said.

“At the same time, it is clear that you have to prepare for all eventualities, and that is what the German government is doing,” he added.

Can the United States help Europe with gas supplies?

President Joe Biden and European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said they were working to ensure “a reliable and affordable energy supply” to the EU.

Their joint statement comes amid fears Russia could cut off or dam its gas supplies to Europe.

The issue is expected to be at the center of discussions at the Energy Council meeting between the United States and the EU on February 7.

“The United States and the EU are working together for a continuous, sufficient, and timely supply of natural gas to the EU from diverse sources around the world to avoid supply shocks, including those that could result from a new Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Biden and von der Leyen said.

How is the UK strengthening its cyber defenses?

The UK’s National Cyber ​​​​Security Center is urging businesses to step up IT network protection amid the Ukraine crisis.

What to know amid fears of war

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