NATO has sounded the alarm on the Ukrainian crisis, warning against “a real risk of a new armed conflict in Europe”, and promised to strengthen its eastern flank.

Speaking on Friday from an airbase in Romania, where the United States has temporarily deployed troops, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would consider maintaining a longer-term presence in eastern Europe. the East in the coming months.

He reaffirmed Western powers’ war fears, which remain heightened as diplomatic efforts to ease tensions fail and Russia keeps more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine during military exercises in Belarus.

Meanwhile, Moscow has accused NATO of using the crisis as a “pretext” to increase its military presence near Russia’s borders.

Here are the latest updates:

Russia slams EU and NATO’s ‘disrespectful’ responses to security issues

The Russian Foreign Ministry has dismissed a joint NATO-European Union response to its questions about the continent’s security arrangements as disrespectful and lacking in substance.

The ministry said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had asked all member countries of the two blocs about their understanding of the principle of “indivisible security” and was waiting for an individual response from each.

Instead, he received responses from the NATO chief and the EU foreign policy chief, to whom Lavrov had not addressed the request, the ministry added.

“Such a step can only be seen as a sign of diplomatic rudeness and disrespect for our request,” he said.

NATO uses Ukraine crisis as ‘pretext’ for troop movements, Moscow says

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman accused NATO of using the Ukraine crisis as an excuse to move troops closer to Russia’s borders.

“NATO continues to increase its presence near the borders of Russia and creates a pretext for this by forcing the situation around Ukraine,” wrote Maria Zakharova on her Telegram channel.

NATO chief warns of ‘real risk’ of war

Stoltenberg says there is a “real risk of a new armed conflict in Europe” as the alliance and Russia increase their troop presence around Ukraine.

“The number of Russian soldiers is increasing and the warning time is decreasing,” Stoltenberg told reporters after visiting a Romanian airbase near the Black Sea with President Klaus Iohannis.

“We have no certainty, and so we continue to reach out to Russia to call on it to de-escalate and engage in good faith political dialogue with NATO and its allies,” he said. -he adds.

Blinken says Russian invasion could ‘start at any time’

Russia is now gathering even more troops near Ukraine and an invasion could be launched at any time, possibly before the end of the Beijing Winter Olympics on February 20, US Secretary of State Antony has said. Blinken.

“We are in a window where an invasion could start at any time, and to be clear, that includes during the Olympics,” Blinken told a press conference while visiting Melbourne for a meeting of ministers. of Foreign Affairs of the so-called Quad Group, which includes the United States, Australia, Japan and India.

Blinken’s remarks came after commercial satellite images released by a private US-based satellite imagery company, Maxar Technologies, showed new Russian military deployments in several locations in western Russia, Belarus and Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

US President Joe Biden has urged US citizens in Ukraine to leave the country immediately, warning that things “could get crazy fast” there.

Ukrainian foreign minister accuses Russia of trying to force Kiev to negotiate with separatists

Peace talks between Ukraine and Russia have stalled due to Russia’s insistence that Ukraine consult directly with separatists in the conflict-affected Donbass region, the Ukrainian minister says Foreign Affairs.

Ukrainian and Russian officials met in Berlin on Thursday for talks mediated by France and Germany on ending the war in eastern Ukraine, which erupted after Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula.

“Russia insists that Ukraine conduct a direct dialogue with the so-called people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said at a press briefing.

“If Ukraine agrees to this, then Russia’s status will change from that of a party to the conflict to that of a mediator in the conflict. That’s why we’re not going there. »

Berlin talks yielded ‘no results’, Kremlin says

The Kremlin said there were “no results” from the meeting of negotiators from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France in an effort to resolve the Ukrainian crisis.

“We all witnessed how the meeting of political advisers from the Normandy Four ended yesterday without any results,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday, referring to the talks in Berlin. .

Peskov said some diplomats were “struggling to read the very short and extremely clear text” of the 2015 Minsk peace accord between Kyiv and Moscow, which aimed to end the war in eastern Russia. Ukraine.

Click here to find out more about the troubled deal and why it has now returned to center stage.

German minister calls Ukraine situation “risky” and calls for diplomacy

All diplomatic efforts must be made to defuse the “extremely risky” situation around Ukraine, the German economy minister said.

Robert Habeck told reporters in Warsaw that Russia would face stiff sanctions if diplomacy failed.

“I say this knowing that each sanction of course has a cost in its own economy,” he added.