The Kremlin made a series of bold security demands late last year to halt the expansion of NATO in Eastern Europe and stop Ukraine from ever joining the alliance. They have been deemed nonstarters by the US and its allies, but diplomatic efforts have continued in a bid to deter a potential invasion.
French President Emmanuel Macron visited Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday as Western leaders embarked on a critical week of diplomacy. The French leader said Putin promised not to escalate the conflict, but there was no clear sign of a breakthrough.
On Thursday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a strong appraisal of the stakes.
“This is probably the most dangerous moment, I would say, in the course of the next few days, in what is the biggest security crisis that Europe has faced for decades,” he said at a news conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels.
His top diplomat, Liz Truss, got a frosty reception from her Russian counterpart after heading to Moscow for talks.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused Truss of refusing to listen to his arguments, and said it was like talking to a deaf person, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, representatives from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France are meeting in Berlin for the latest round of talks on the unresolved conflict in Eastern Ukraine that dates to 2014.
That’s when Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency in Ukraine’s east, a war that has rumbled on since despite a series of shaky cease-fires, costing an estimated 14,000 lives, according to the United Nations.
Amid fears of a fresh Russian invasion, the US has moved 3,000 troops to Eastern Europe and was firming up plans to help evacuate Americans if needed through Poland, a senior defense official and a US official told NBC News on Wednesday.
Oksana Parafeniuk, Tatyana Chistikova other Alan Kaytukov contributed.