Russian forces on brink of war as state parliament backs move in eastern Ukraine

Russian forces on brink of war as state parliament backs move in eastern Ukraine
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Gareth Milner

By Gareth Milner

Published: 15/02/2022

- 10:28

Updated: 15/02/2022

- 10:56

Despite last minute diplomatic moves to minimise the risk of conflict, tensions remain high.

The Russian State Duma has voted in favour of a resolution regarding the recognition of self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, with the resolution set to be sent to President Putin for approval.

It was not immediately clear how many troops are returning to bases — and the news came a day after western officials said some forces and military hardware were moving toward the border, muddying the picture.

Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee to consider the latest developments in the Ukraine crisis as hopes rise that diplomacy may still avert war.

The Prime Minister held talks with US President Joe Biden on Monday where they agreed a “crucial window for diplomacy” remained open, while Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign policy chief Sergei Lavrov have also agreed to continue down the path of negotiations.

A Downing Street source said there was “some hope” that diplomacy could work and Russia could step back.

A US defence official said small numbers of Russian ground units have been moving out of larger assembly areas for several days, taking up positions closer to the Ukrainian border at what would be departure points if Putin launched an invasion.

Moscow wants guarantees that Nato will not allow Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to join as members. It also wants the alliance to halt weapons deployments to Ukraine and roll back its forces from Eastern Europe.

Mr Lavrov said possibilities for talks “are far from being exhausted”.

Mr Putin noted that the West could try to draw Russia into “endless talks” and questioned whether there is still a chance to reach agreement. Mr Lavrov replied that his ministry would not allow the US and its allies to stonewall Russia’s main requests.

The US reacted coolly.

“The path for diplomacy remains available if Russia chooses to engage constructively,” White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “However, we are clear-eyed about the prospects of that, given the steps Russia is taking on the ground in plain sight.”

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