Russia has warned it will ‘retaliate’ if its demands are not met and on Wednesday dismissed fresh Western threats of sanctions as the Kremlin showed no signs of backing down amid the impasse over the Ukraine.
As Moscow deployed more forces to its neighbor’s border and staged new military exercises, the United States stepped up its efforts to support European allies and counter Russian threats.
President Joe Biden said he is reportedly considering personal sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin, Washington worked to help protect Europe from a possible energy crisis and a US plane carrying military equipment and ammunition landed in Kiev on Tuesday.
Russia has repeatedly denied plans to invade Ukraine and accused the West of stoking tensions. On Wednesday, the Kremlin maintained its hard line and said it looked forward to a promised written response to its security demands from the Biden administration.
Biden said on Tuesday he would consider personal sanctions against Putin if he invades Russia, a sign of drastic measures being considered by the United States and its allies in a bid to stave off a potentially devastating new conflict in Europe.
Such a move would not harm Putin but would be “politically destructive”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday after Britain signaled it would not rule out the exit either.
Russia has mustered around 100,000 troops near its shared border with Ukraine and in Belarus, where it deployed fighter jets on Wednesday ahead of joint drills next month. The buildup of forces raised fears of an imminent invasion that could come from multiple fronts.
Russia is holding a series of military exercises across its territory this week, with new exercises on Wednesday of its Northern Fleet in the Arctic as well as in the southern Rostov region, not far from the Ukrainian border.
The new Russian activity, cautiously watched across the West, came just days after NATO announced it would put forces on standby and bolster Eastern Europe with more ships and weapons. fighter.
Biden reiterated on Tuesday that he has “no intention” of moving US forces to Ukraine after Washington placed 8,500 troops on heightened alert on Monday to help defend NATO allies in the event of an attack. Russian aggression against Ukraine.
In a further effort to strengthen the position of European countries in the event of conflict, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the Biden administration was in talks with major energy-producing countries and companies around the world about a potential diversion of supplies to Europe.
The European Union is heavily dependent on Russia for its gas supply, raising fears that Europe could face an even worse energy crisis if Moscow decides to cut off supplies as leverage.
Diplomatic efforts to resolve the tensions have so far failed to yield a breakthrough.
But the Kremlin is awaiting a written response from Washington this week to a series of security demands it made last month, including a permanent ban on Ukraine’s NATO membership and the withdrawal of military deployments from alliance in Eastern Europe. The demands were largely rejected by Washington and the Western alliance.
In an address to Russia’s parliament on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would not allow its security proposals to be “wrapped up in endless discussions.”
“If the West continues its aggressive course, Moscow will take the necessary retaliatory measures,” he said.
Amid escalating tensions, political advisers from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France were due to meet in Paris on Wednesday to relaunch stalled talks on how to resolve the long-simmering conflict in eastern Ukraine between Kiev and pro-Russian separatists.
As the West continued to express fears that a Russian invasion was imminent, Ukrainian officials sought to downplay the threat.
In a video address to the nation on Tuesday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy continued to urge the public to be wary of misinformation about a possible attack and not to panic.
The decision by several countries, including the United States, to withdraw the families of diplomatic personnel from Kyiv “does not necessarily signal an inevitable escalation”, Zelenskyy said.
Reuters and Associated press contributed.