Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in Kyiv for talks with his counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy after pitching Ankara as a mediator in the Ukraine-Russia crisis.
Erdogan’s trip on Thursday marks the latest in a string of visits to Ukraine by NATO leaders in recent days.
Turkey, which has interests in both Ukraine and Russia, has been playing a mediating role in the crisis so far. While Ankara is involved with Moscow in several global conflicts, it also sells weapons to Ukraine.
Western powers still fear a Russian invasion is possible given the build-up of more than 100,000 soldiers at the Ukraine border, but Moscow denies having plans to attack.
It has instead blamed the United States and the Washington-led NATO alliance for undermining the region’s security and demanded sweeping guarantees from the West.
The US has dismissed Moscow’s main proposals – that NATO cease activity in Eastern Europe and never allow ex-Soviet state Ukraine to become a member – as non-starters.
And further angering the Kremlin on Wednesday, Washington announced it will deploy troops to Eastern Europe to “deter and defend against any aggression”.
Here are all the latest updates:
Poland to lobby for permanent, rotational US troop increase
Poland’s Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau will lobby Washington for a proposed US troop increase to remain in the country permanently on a rotational basis, a Polish official has said.
“It’s natural that Polish diplomacy is looking to broaden the allied presence in the form of a permanent rotation,” Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz told Reuters news agency before Rau’s visit to the US, where he will meet Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Washington, DC, on Friday.
Rau and Blinken will decide when and where the approximately 1,700 US soldiers being shifted to Poland will be stationed in the country, as well as potential sanctions on Russia, during their talks.
Photo gallery: Ukrainian civilians train for war
In Kharkiv, northeast Ukraine, a table tennis coach, a chaplain’s wife, a dentist and a firebrand nationalist are among those preparing to defend against a feared Russian attack.
Take a look here.
Russian defence minister in Belarus before joint drills
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has arrived in Belarus to inspect Russian and Belarusian troops’ preparations for joint drills this month, according to the Belarusian defence ministry.
Moscow has moved an undisclosed number of soldiers and military hardware to neighbouring Belarus, which also borders Ukraine, for the February 10-20 joint drills. The Kremlin says the forces will be withdrawn after the exercises have been completed.
At a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Shoigu said the two countries planned to hold a total of 20 joint military manoeuvres this year, and Moscow stood ready to help Minsk oppose “the West’s destructive line”, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Timeline: Ukraine’s turbulent history
Ukraine has faced significant challenges since winning independence in 1991.
For a timeline of developments, click here.
US military aid arrives in Kyiv
Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Kyiv, says the seventh delivery as part of a $200m US security support package to Ukraine has arrived in the capital.
“This time [the delivery] is carrying about 80 tonnes of ammunition for grenade launchers,” she said. “This is all being loaded into trucks by the Ukrainian army, but as per the Minsk agreement – a ceasefire agreement between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists – this hardware cannot go to the front line in eastern Ukraine.”
Why is Turkey trying to mediate the Ukraine-Russia crisis?
Turkey is hoping to help defuse tensions between its NATO allies and Russia over the Ukraine crisis. For months, Ankara has been calling for both sides to tone down their rhetoric.
While invested in the Ukrainian defence industry, Turkey is also involved with Russia militarily in a number of conflicts, meaning it needs to strike a balancing act.
Read more here.
Erdogan ‘believes he can talk freely and frankly’ with Zelenskyy, Putin
Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Istanbul, says Erdogan has stepped up as a “mediator between Ukraine and Russia as he believes he can talk freely and frankly” with both Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“He [Erdogan] says that he doesn’t like to see two neighbours in a conflict, but that as a NATO member, if Russia invades Ukraine, Turkey will do what is necessary to hold the eastern flank of the transatlantic military alliance,” she said.
“But of course, Turkey and Russia have strategic relations and strategic cooperation when it comes to Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh … so Erdogan needs to be very careful while dealing with this issue … as he has some national interests at stake.”
French FM says Romania troop deployment offer not to provoke Moscow
France’s offer to send troops to Romania as part of wider NATO plans to bolster its ranks on the alliance’s eastern flank is not meant to provoke Russia, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said.
Speaking after meeting foreign ministers from Eastern Europe and the Baltic states in Bucharest, Le Drian and his Romanian counterpart Bogdan Aurescu said France and NATO were doing everything to convince Russia to choose dialogue rather than escalation.
Russia has moved 30,000 soldiers to Belarus, NATO chief says
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says Russia has been moving some 30,000 combat soldiers and modern weapons to Belarus over the last few days, Moscow’s biggest military deployment to the country since the end of the Cold War.
The deployment included Speznaz special operations forces, SU-35 fighter jets, “dual capable” Iskander missiles and S-400 air defence systems, Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.
“All this will be combined with Russia’s annual nuclear forces exercise,” he added. The term dual capable, which Stoltenberg used for the Iskander missiles, is used to describe weapons meant for conventional and nuclear warfare.
Kremlin says US troop boost in Eastern Europe will fuel tensions
The deployment of additional US troops in Eastern Europe will escalate tensions in the region, the Kremlin says.
“We are constantly urging our American partners to stop escalating tensions … [but] unfortunately they are continuing to do it,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
He added Russia’s concerns over NATO’s eastward expansion and the US troop deployment are “absolutely clear” and “absolutely justified”.
Turkish president urges ‘restraint’ from all sides
Erdogan says before departing for Kyiv that Ankara hopes to stop “any form of confrontation between Russia and Ukraine”.
“We support Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” the Turkish leader told reporters in the country’s capital. “As a country of the Black Sea region, we advocate … a peaceful resolution … and call upon all parties to use restraint.”
US’s Omar slams proposed sanctions bill
US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has condemned a bill that would allow Washington to impose sweeping economic sanctions on Russia should it take aggressive action against Ukraine and supply Kyiv with weaponry.
“The proposed legislative solution to this crisis, escalates the conflict without deterring it effectively,” Omar said in a statement posted on her website.
“I am under no illusions about the horrors an invasion will unleash, or that it is Russia that is responsible for bringing us to the brink … but I cannot in good conscience support a bill that places militarism and economic warfare over the urgent needs of both Ukrainian and Russian civilians,” she added.
The full text of the so-called Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022 is accessible here (PDF).
NGO warns escalation would unleash dire humanitarian consequences
The Norwegian Refugee Council says that up to two million people living on both sides of the contact line in eastern Ukraine, where Kyiv has been battling Russian-backed separatists since early 2014, will be under increased threat of violence and displacement if the conflict escalates.
“Active hostilities would dramatically worsen the existing humanitarian situation, where needs are already high from years of violence,” the NGO said in a statement, adding that it called on all parties in the conflict to “prioritise de-escalation, and refrain from all hostilities”.
“It would devastate already damaged civil infrastructure, further restrict peoples’ movements, block access to communities in need, and disrupt essential public services such as water, power, transport and banking. It would also trigger massive new displacements, as millions of people in Donetsk and Luhansk regions would be under threat.”
“The human suffering of renewed conflict would be limitless. It would result in massive civilian casualties and displacement, and soaring humanitarian needs,” warned @NRC_Egeland on a visit to #Ukraine this week. https://t.co/CdQzt2RH5g
— NRC (@NRC_Norway) February 3, 2022
Biden and Macron review coordinated response to Russia
US President Joe Biden and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have reviewed the coordination of diplomatic efforts and plans to impose economic costs on Moscow should it invade Ukraine, according to the White House.
“President Biden and President Macron agreed their teams will stay in close touch, including in consultation with NATO Allies and EU partners, on our coordinated and comprehensive approach to managing these issues,” the White House said in a readout of Wednesday’s call.
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