Tensions simmer in Ukraine-Russia border crisis

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Jack Guy and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 2:55 AM ET, Fri January 28, 2022
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10:54 a.m. ET, January 27, 2022

NATO broke its "promise" not to expand but there must be no war, says Medvedev

From CNN's Radina Gigova in Atlanta

Dmitry Medvedev, chairman of the United Russia Party, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, holds a meeting of the Presidium of the Russian Presidential Council on Science and Education via a video link from his Gorki, Russia, residence on January 27.
Dmitry Medvedev, chairman of the United Russia Party, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, holds a meeting of the Presidium of the Russian Presidential Council on Science and Education via a video link from his Gorki, Russia, residence on January 27. (Yekaterina Shtukina/TASS/Getty Images)

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has failed to keep its non-expansion "promise," but there should be no war, said Russia's Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday.

"They promised not to expand NATO, but didn’t keep the promise," Medvedev said, according to state news agency TASS.

"They say that ‘we did not sign anything.’ But we all know well who and when granted to whom such promises, such assurances," he added.

"Did they promise not to expand, let’s say, on the territory of the former Soviet Union? They promised it either in this way or another in private talks," said Medvedev.

"They failed to keep all their promises. They are now encroaching on our state borders," he added.

"There must be no war in any way, nobody is looking to start the war, and everything must be done to avoid any war. Moreover, on behalf of Russia and supposedly the North Atlantic alliance," he said.  

Medvedev also added that a war would be "horrifying" and there are people who make money by raising tensions.

A process of negotiations on security guarantees is the only way to settle the current tensions between Russia, Ukraine and the West, he added.

Medvedev's remarks go directly against one of NATO's key principles, enshrined in its founding document. Since its inception, the alliance has had an "open-door policy." This says that any European state that is ready and willing to undertake the commitments and obligations of membership, and whose membership contributes to security in the Euro-Atlantic area, is welcomed to apply. Any decisions on enlargement must be agreed unanimously.

At a summit in Brussels in 1994 NATO leaders made it clear that they would welcome expansion to the east, and in 1997, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland were invited to begin accession talks.

Russia has made similar claims about NATO before, and the US and NATO have rejected them in the past.

5:47 a.m. ET, January 27, 2022

Ukraine willing "to meet 24-7" to avoid war

From CNN's Yulia Shevchenko and Jen Deaton

Ukraine’s negotiator Adriy Yermak said discussions with Russia on Wednesday were "substantial but difficult."

All parties are in support of a permanent ceasefire and Ukraine is ready to negotiate around the clock to prevent war and de-escalate tensions around Ukraine’s border, said Yermak.

“The work continues and I can tell you that Ukraine as usual is ready to negotiate, to meet 24-7," he said. 

"Because for us, for President Zelensky, for the entire team, the goal of stopping the war, of ending the war and returning our territories -- and today that this also includes easing the tensions -- the de-escalation around the Ukrainian border, is the priority," added Yermak.

Negotiators for the two nations met in Paris as part of talks facilitated by France and Germany in the Normandy Format, a group of the four countries that has been trying to broker peace in eastern Ukraine since 2014.

“We have agreed on the final communique. I believe that the most important thing is that there is support of all the participants of the Normandy Format, of a permanent ceasefire which must be in effect unconditionally," said Yermak.

While disagreements remain, there is also a desire to work through them, he added.

Talks between the group would resume in two weeks in Berlin, said Yermak.

9:11 a.m. ET, January 27, 2022

Russian troop count "insufficient" for full invasion, says Ukrainian Foreign Minister

From CNN's Tim Lister and Jack Guy

A convoy of Russian armored vehicles moves along a highway in Crimea, Russia on Tuesday, January 18
A convoy of Russian armored vehicles moves along a highway in Crimea, Russia on Tuesday, January 18 (AP)

Russia has not yet assembled enough troops for a full-scale invasion into Ukraine, the country's foreign minister says.

"The number of Russian troops amassed along the border of Ukraine and in occupied territories is large, it poses a threat — a direct threat to Ukraine," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wednesday.

"However," Kuleba continued, "this number is insufficient for a full-scale offensive along the entire Ukrainian border."

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov threatened "appropriate response measures" if the West continues its "aggressive line."

Speaking to reporters in Kyiv, Kuleba noted that Russia could attack Ukraine at any point, as evidenced in the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

However, a complete invasion is less assured as Kuleba says the Russians "lack some important military indicators and systems to conduct such a large full-scale offensive."

Responding to recent rhetoric predicting a pending conflict, Kuleba added, "we can say 100 times a day invasion is imminent, but this doesn't change the situation on the ground."

5:39 a.m. ET, January 27, 2022

US has delivered a written response to Russia in hopes of avoiding conflict in Ukraine, says Blinken

From CNN's Jeremy Herb, Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has announced that the United States has delivered a written response to Russia with the goal of avoiding a Russian invasion into Ukraine.

The response "sets out a serious diplomatic path forward should Russia choose it," Blinken told reporters Wednesday.

As the document has been received in Moscow, Blinken says he anticipates conducting a follow-up discussion with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the near future.

"The document we've delivered includes concerns of the United States and our allies and partners about Russia's actions that undermine security, a principled and pragmatic evaluation of the concerns that Russia has raised, and our own proposals for areas where we may be able to find common ground," Blinken said.

US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan delivered the response in person to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The document is intended to address concerns publically released by Moscow.

US officials have warned that a Russian invasion into Ukraine could be imminent, noting that Russia has shown no signs of de-escalation.

9:14 a.m. ET, January 27, 2022

8,500 US troops placed on "heightened alert"

From CNN's Barbara Starr and Jeremy Herb

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on January 24.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on January 24. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

As Russian troops gather at the border of Ukraine, as many as 8,500 US troops have been placed on heightened alert for possible deployment.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday that the US troops' status is largely meant to bolster NATO's quick response force but notes that American forces would be "postured to be ready for any other contingencies as well."

President Biden directed the order as the US continues to take steps to prepare for an invasion into Ukraine by Russia, a maneuver the White House has labeled "imminent."

"The United States has taken steps to heighten the readiness of its forces at home and abroad, so they are prepared to respond to a range of contingencies, including support to the NATO response force if it is activated," Kirby said.
5:35 a.m. ET, January 27, 2022

Biden calls situation in Ukraine uncertain as Russian troops gather at the border

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

US President Joe Biden acknowledged Tuesday a deeply uncertain situation at the Ukraine border, where Russian troops are amassing but few observers have any definitive knowledge of whether or when they might invade.

Earlier, the White House said a Russian invasion was "imminent," and American troops have been placed on high alert to deploy to Europe in a show of reassurance. US and European sanctions have been readied in the event of an invasion.

Even as tensions mounted, however, Biden conceded that one man's opaque decision-making would determine how events unfold.

"This is all Putin. I don't even think his people know for certain what he will do," Biden said.

The President said he'd be willing to apply sanctions on Putin himself, a step previous presidents have avoided.

And he revealed he could move US troops into Eastern Europe soon to demonstrate American commitment to its NATO allies: "I may be moving some of those troops in the near term just because it takes time. And again, it's not provocative," he said.

Still, Biden made clear Putin remains something of an enigma, whose vague intentions have have proved befuddling to him and other western leaders.

9:16 a.m. ET, January 27, 2022

Russia and Ukraine agree to continue ceasefire talks

From CNN's Yulia Shevchenko, Jennifer Deaton, Lindsay Isaac, Helen Regan and Kara Fox

Kremlin's deputy chief of staff Dmitry Kozak gives a press conference at the Russian Ambassador's residence in Paris, France, on January 26.
Kremlin's deputy chief of staff Dmitry Kozak gives a press conference at the Russian Ambassador's residence in Paris, France, on January 26. (Léo Pierrard/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators agreed that a permanent ceasefire in eastern Ukraine must be observed "unconditionally" following hours-long talks in Paris on Wednesday.

The announcement came after a meeting at the Elysee Palace of the so-called Normandy Format -- a four-way conversation between representatives from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France -- that has been trying to broker peace in eastern Ukraine since 2014.

Tensions between Moscow and Kyiv are at their highest in years, with a large Russian troop build-up near the shared borders of the two former Soviet republics -- spurring fears that Russia could launch an invasion.

Speaking after Wednesday's meeting, Moscow's chief negotiator Dmitry Kozak said the ceasefire must be observed "unconditionally" but that many other issues in eastern Ukraine remained unresolved.

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