London gets more involved. Prime Minister Johnson wants to call Kremlin chief Putin – and at the same time announces more troops for the crisis region. Significantly more reserved tones are coming from Kiev.
London/Moscow/Kiev – After the USA, Great Britain also wants to expand its military engagement in Eastern Europe because of the tense situation in Ukraine.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to double the number of British troops in the region and to supply Estonia with self-defense weapons, the British government announced over the weekend. Secretary of State Liz Truss urged Russia to de-escalate. US President Joe Biden had previously announced that he would move additional US troops to NATO countries in Eastern Europe. Biden did not provide any more specific information about how many soldiers it could be and where they could be transferred and when.
Russia’s Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev has rejected allegations that his country is behaving aggressively. “There is currently talk of Russia threatening Ukraine,” Patrushev said, according to the Interfax agency on Sunday. “This is a complete absurdity, there is no threat.” The former head of the FSB also accused the West of spreading “self-interested fabrications” about a war. “We don’t want war, we don’t need it at all,” he said.
Attack feared – Kremlin denies
In the west, reports of a massive Russian troop deployment near Ukraine have been causing criticism for weeks. It is feared that Moscow could plan an attack on the neighboring country. The Kremlin denies this. It is also considered possible that fears are only being fueled in order to persuade the NATO states to make concessions regarding new security guarantees.
Prime Minister Johnson announced that he would soon be on the phone with Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin. He also wants to travel to the crisis region, the exact destination has not been announced for the time being. “The picture is of increasing concern,” Johnson tweeted about the situation. According to official figures, more than 900 British soldiers are currently stationed in Estonia, more than 100 in Ukraine and around 150 in Poland.
On Monday, the Foreign Office in London also plans to announce new sanctions that are intended to affect Russia’s “strategic and financial interests”. A combat mission by British troops is “highly unlikely,” said department head Truss of the BBC.
The US government is convinced that Russian President Putin has assembled sufficient military forces for a possible attack on Ukraine. “While we do not believe that President Putin has made the final decision to use these forces against Ukraine,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Friday. “But he clearly has that ability now.”
According to the New York Times, the US government is considering extremely painful economic sanctions in the event of a Russian invasion. For example, sanctions would hit Russian banks harder than ever, the paper wrote on Saturday. That will inevitably affect daily life in Russia. The possible consequences are a stock market crash, high inflation and other forms of financial panic that would hurt people in Russia – from billionaires to government employees to middle-class families.
NATO and the United States responded in writing to the Russian demands on Wednesday. However, both sides showed no willingness to negotiate, especially with a view to binding commitments for an end to NATO’s eastward expansion. In particular, Russia wants to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and justifies this with its own security interests. The Western allies, on the other hand, point to states being free to choose their alliances.
The Foreign Ministry in Moscow has criticized Western media for reporting on Russian troop deployments. The transfer of the military to Belarus, for example, is only a matter of preparations for a joint maneuver. The US State Department expressed concern that Moscow could station troops in the neighboring country under the guise of the maneuvers and attack Ukraine from there.
The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj made a similar statement. He emphasized that there was no greater escalation than a year ago. Foreign journalists would like to see for themselves. “Are there tanks on the streets here? No, but that’s how it feels when you’re not here,” said Zelenskyy. dpa