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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7:46 a.m. ET, January 27, 2022

Irish fishermen plan to disrupt Russian naval exercises citing environmental concerns

From CNN's Jack Guy

Irish fishers are set to meet with the Russian ambassador to Ireland to express their concerns over military exercises set to take place off the southwest coast of the country.

The Russian exercises are scheduled for early next month and will last a number of days, reports CNN affiliate Virgin Media News.

The fishermen have raised concerns over environmental damage which could affect their livelihoods.

"These are war games," Patrick Murphy of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation told Virgin Media News. "They are doing this to send a message but the people that they're going to hurt the most is our fishing communities."

Murphy said that boats have been sunk by submarines in the past. "But the damage that we don't know is the damage to the marine environment," he added.

Fisherman John D O'Sullivan wondered why Russia had chosen the fertile fishing grounds of the Celtic Shelf to perform the exercises.

"It shouldn't be allowed to happen on the shelf," said O'Sullivan. "There's plenty water west."

On Tuesday Ireland's public service broadcaster RTE reported that some fishermen plan to use their boats to "peacefully disrupt" the Russian exercises.

However the Russian ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov played down the controversy, calling it "hugely overblown."

Filatov said Irish authorities have been notified about the exercises, which are part of regular training.

"This is not in any way a threat to Ireland," he said.

9:17 a.m. ET, January 27, 2022

US and NATO responses have "no positive reaction" to Russia's concerns, says Kremlin

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova in Moscow

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a plenary meeting of the Russian State Duma in Moscow on January 26.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a plenary meeting of the Russian State Duma in Moscow on January 26. (Russian State Duma/TASS/Getty Images)

The written responses presented by the United States and NATO to Russia's security demands fail to address Moscow's main concerns over the eastward expansion of the military alliance, Russia's Foreign Minister said Thursday, as fears of a possible invasion of Ukraine remain high.

"There is no positive reaction on the main issue in this document," Sergey Lavrov told journalists in Moscow. "The main issue is our clear position on the inadmissibility of further expansion of NATO to the East and the deployment of strike weapons that could threaten the territory of the Russian Federation."

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.

Russia has repeatedly denied it is planning an invasion but has argued that NATO support for Ukraine -- including increased weapons supplies and military training -- constitutes a growing threat on its western flank.

Lavrov explained the US and NATO had previously agreed within the context of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) not to expand at the expense of Russia's safety.

"We present non-verbal promises, written documents signed by the leaders of all the OSCE countries, including the President of the United States (Istanbul Declaration of 1999, Astana Declaration of 2010), our Western partners have to get out from a more serious situation," Lavrov explained.

"This principle is clearly stated. It has two main interrelated approaches. First, the right of every state to freely choose military alliances is recognized. Second: the obligation of each state not to strengthen its security at the expense of the security of others," he added.

"In other words, the right to choose alliances is clearly conditioned by the need to take into account the security interests of any other OSCE state, including the Russian Federation," Lavrov concluded.

The Russian Foreign Minister conceded the responses by the US and NATO could lead to serious discussions but only on secondary issues.

"There is a reaction there that allows us to count on the beginning of a serious conversation, but on secondary topics," he said.

7:33 a.m. ET, January 27, 2022

Kremlin says Putin has read US and NATO responses, but he won't rush to judgments

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin has read the written responses by both the United States and NATO to its security demands, but the Kremlin says he won’t be rushing to to any conclusions. 

“The President already read the written responses,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists during a conference call on Thursday. “All the papers are with the President. It will take some time to analyse them, we will not rush to any conclusions.”

Peskov said Russia’s response would not take long, but cautioned it wouldn’t happen straight away. “The reaction should not be delayed, but there will be no reaction the next day either,” he said. 

The Kremlin spokesman said that on the surface Russia’s prime concerns had not been addressed, but refused to give an official definitive answer to the responses presented by the US and NATO. 

“It cannot be said that our considerations were taken into account or that any willingness to take into account our concerns was demonstrated, but, once again I repeat, we will not rush to judgments,” Peskov said. 

“You heard the statement by both the [US] Secretary of State [Antony Blinken] and [NATO Secretary General Jens] Stoltenberg, where they absolutely unequivocally spoke about the rejection of our fundamental concern,” Peskov added, noting there were barely any positive indications. “There are few reasons for optimism, but I would refrain from conceptual assessments.”

9:23 a.m. ET, January 27, 2022

"It's Russia who has to make concessions," says Ukrainian foreign minister

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod (L) and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba give a statement at Christiansborg in Copenhagen, Denmkark, on January 27.
Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod (L) and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba give a statement at Christiansborg in Copenhagen, Denmkark, on January 27. (Mads Claus Rasmussen//Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says it’s Moscow, not Kyiv, which has to make concessions to defuse tensions in the region.

“The logic that Ukraine always has to make concessions in order to prevent Russia from being more aggressive, failed, doesn't work this way,” Kuleba told journalists during a visit to Copenhagen.

“We have behaved more than constructively in recent years. We are very constructive now,” Kuleba said, speaking alongside his Danish counterpart. “It's Russia who has to make concessions.”

The Ukrainian Foreign Minister went on to say what happens in Ukraine will have repercussions for the West.

“I firmly believe that it's important for Western countries to succeed in this particular crisis, for the reasons that I mentioned, because in recent years, Russia has been attacking not only Ukraine,” he explained, adding that Russia has been using gas supplies, cyberattacks and other tactics to attack the West.

“These are all parts of the pressure that Russia is putting,” he said.

“So in Ukraine, the fight in Ukraine is not only about Ukraine, it's really about the ability of the European Union of the West in a broader sense, to defend its principles and defend itself from those who put a challenge who challenge the way of life that the Europeans support.”

6:38 a.m. ET, January 27, 2022

Ukrainian national guardsman detained after killing 5 at machine-building factory

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Katharina Krebs 

A Ukrainian National Guard service member who killed five people and injured five more at a machine-building plant in eastern Ukraine has been detained.

The serviceman opened fire Thursday morning at the state-owned Southern Yuzhmash Machine-Building Plant in the city of Dnipro, in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Ukraine's Interior Ministry said in a statement.

The plant works with Ukraine's State Space Agency and produces rocket and airspace technology, including missiles systems and space launch vehicles, according to state news agency Ukrinform. 

The serviceman opened fire with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, the ministry said, but it is unclear why he did so.

Ukraine's Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky said Thursday that a commission will be set up to "investigate the circumstances that could have led to the actions of a 21-year-old serviceman who was called up to learn how to defend the country and take care of security, not to shoot his colleagues."

A military medical commission will also evaluate the mental state of the serviceman at the time of the issuing of his weapon permit, he said on his official Facebook page.

"I am convinced that we need to conduct a thorough analysis of how conscript military service is built in the country, what are its advantages and disadvantages and what needs to be radically changed," Monastyrsky added.

He said a woman is among the five killed and that doctors are "fighting" for the lives of those injured. The minister also offered his "deepest condolences to the relatives and friends of the victims."

8:10 a.m. ET, January 27, 2022

Russia posts record daily Covid cases for seventh day running

From CNN's Jack Guy

Employees of the Lider Center for Special Risk Rescue Operations of the Russian Emergencies Ministry carry out disinfection of Leningradsky Railway Station in Moscow, Russia amid the COVID-19 pandemic on January 27.
Employees of the Lider Center for Special Risk Rescue Operations of the Russian Emergencies Ministry carry out disinfection of Leningradsky Railway Station in Moscow, Russia amid the COVID-19 pandemic on January 27. (Mikhail Metzel/TASS/Getty Images)

Russia recorded 88,816 Covid-19 cases on Thursday, a record high for the seventh day in a row, reports Reuters.

The new record is significantly higher than the 74,692 cases reported on Wednesday, and comes as the Omicron coronavirus variant was detected in new regions of the country, according to the news agency.

Russia also reported 665 deaths in the last 24 hours, officials told Reuters.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin ordered 50% of government employees to work remotely from last Friday.

But there is no talk of lockdown despite the worsening situation, the Kremlin said Monday.

“​​Nobody is discussing any lockdowns. We see the dynamics,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

5:55 a.m. ET, January 27, 2022

"If Russia decides to fight, we will fight back," says Ukrainian foreign minister

 From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says his country is not planning any offensive actions, but if Russia attacks, it will fight back.

“We are committed to the diplomatic effort at we are ready to engage with Russia at different levels in order to find diplomatic solutions to the conflict,” Kuleba said during a visit to Denmark on Thursday. “However, if Russia decides to fight, we will fight back.”

Kuleba went on to say he believes an invasion is not Moscow’s ‘plan A’, even if Russia continues to amass troops at Ukraine’s borders.

“The number of Russian troops is becoming higher and higher. With every day they bring in more troops,” Kuleba said.

“However, we believe that plan A for Russia now is to use the threat force to destabilise Ukraine internally, to sow panic and force us into concessions," he added.

“This includes not only amassing troops but also cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns. This is all happening right now as we speak so our to priority number one is not to allow Russia to succeed in implementing plan A,” he added.

“At this point we think that military operation is something they keep in their back pocket, it’s not something they put ahead of other options,” Kuleba said.

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.