Tuesday, 24 May, 2022

Russia-Ukraine tensions flare

Russia-Ukraine tensions flare

The tensions between Russia and Ukraine have escalated in recent days as tens of thousands of Russian troops along with tanks and artillery have been deployed near the Ukrainian border since late last year, rattling the three Baltic nations, which are members of NATO, report agencies.

Biden and other Western leaders have threatened to impose severe economic sanctions on Russia if it attacks Ukraine again. Russia, under sanctions since 2014, has largely brushed off the threat. The United States has approved requests by Baltic nations to ship US-made weapons to Ukraine amid fears of a Russian invasion, officials said Thursday.    

A State Department official in Berlin, where Secretary of State Antony Blinken was holding talks on Ukraine, said the United States was "expediting authorised transfers of US-origin equipment from other allies".

"European allies have what they need to move forward on additional security assistance (to) Ukraine in the coming days and weeks," the official said.

A source familiar with the authorisations said the approval was for urgent requests by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to assist Ukraine, a fellow former Soviet republic. The exact amounts and types of weapons were not specified but the Baltic nations' arsenals include Javelins, portable missiles capable of destroying tanks.

President Joe Biden's administration since last year has approved $650 million in weapons to Ukraine, $200 million of it last month amid fears of war.

Meanwhile, Russia condemned US President Joe Biden's vow of a "severe" response to any invasion of Ukraine as "destabilising", as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken opened talks with key European allies for a common strategy against Moscow. 

The Kremlin's reaction came after Biden in Washington assessed that Vladimir Putin will "move in" on Ukraine and warned that would be a "disaster for Russia". With tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border, fears are mounting that a major conflict could break out in Europe.

On the other hand, the European Union threatened "massive" economic sanctions if Moscow attacks Ukraine, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken rallied allies on Thursday ahead of last-ditch crisis talks with Russia aimed at preventing war. 

Western countries are seeking to present a united diplomatic front before Blinken meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday, widely seen as one of the last chances to stop Russia from launching a new attack. 

Blinken visited Kyiv on Wednesday and met German, French and British ministers on Thursday in Berlin. On Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden gave his clearest indication yet that he believes a Russian attack is likely.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said there could be no guarantees for the security of Europe as long as regions of his country remained under the control of Russia and pro-Moscow separatists.