Russia rubbishes claims that it is ready to invade Ukraine as ‘completely ridiculous’

Russia has rubbished Western warnings that Moscow is ready to invade Ukraine as ‘completely ridiculous’ and blamed NATO for increasing tensions in the region by wanting to ‘drag’ Kyiv into the alliance.  

The region has been on a knife-edge since the end of last year when Russian President Vladimir Putin moved more than 100,000 troops, as well as tanks and missiles, close to its border with Ukraine.

And tensions have ramped up in recent days after a surge in equipment and troop movements, among them military police, from the extreme east of Russia to the border – prompting the West to warn that Moscow intends to invade.  

But today, the head of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, rejected those warnings of an impending invasion, describing them as ‘ridiculous’.

Russia has rubbished Western warnings that Moscow is ready to invade Ukraine as ‘completely ridiculous’. Pictured: Russian soldiers of the Teykovo Missile Formation take part in combat patrol and anti-sabotage drills involving RS-24 Yars road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile systems in the Ivanovo Region in Russia on January 28

Russia has amassed 100,000 troops at the border with Ukraine, but Moscow has insisted it has no intentions to invade

Russia has amassed 100,000 troops at the border with Ukraine, but Moscow has insisted it has no intentions to invade

‘At this time, they’re saying that Russia threatens Ukraine – that’s completely ridiculous,’ Patrushev was quoted as saying by Russian state news agency Tass. ‘We don’t want war and we don’t need it at all.’

Russia has issued a list of security demands to the US and its NATO allies, including a ban on Ukraine joining NATO and the withdrawal of troops from ex-Soviet states. But the alliance has described most of the list as ‘non-starters’. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov today reiterated Moscow’s opposition to Ukraine joining the alliance.

NATO ‘has already come close to Ukraine. They also want to drag this country there,’ Lavrov said, ‘although everyone understands that Ukraine is not ready and could make no contribution to strengthening NATO security.’    

Ukraine has sought NATO membership for years, but any prospects of joining appear far off as the country struggles to find political stability and attack corruption.     

Russian BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles during drills held by the armed forces of the Southern Military District at the Kadamovsky range in the Rostov region, Russia, on January 27

Russian BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles during drills held by the armed forces of the Southern Military District at the Kadamovsky range in the Rostov region, Russia, on January 27

A Russian military vehicle drive off a railway platforms after arrival in Belarus. In a move that further beefs up forces near Ukraine, Russia has sent an unspecified number of troops from the country's far east to its ally Belarus, which shares a border with Ukraine, for major war games next month

A Russian military vehicle drive off a railway platforms after arrival in Belarus. In a move that further beefs up forces near Ukraine, Russia has sent an unspecified number of troops from the country’s far east to its ally Belarus, which shares a border with Ukraine, for major war games next month

U.S. army instructor from the Joint Multinational Training Group trains a Ukrainian service member to operate with M141 Bunker Defeat Munition (SMAW-D) grenade launcher, supplied by the United States, at a shooting range in Lviv Region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released January 30

U.S. army instructor from the Joint Multinational Training Group trains a Ukrainian service member to operate with M141 Bunker Defeat Munition (SMAW-D) grenade launcher, supplied by the United States, at a shooting range in Lviv Region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released January 30

The US military train Ukrainian soldiers to operate with the M141 Bunker Defeat Munition (SMAW-D) grenade launcher in Ukraine

The US military train Ukrainian soldiers to operate with the M141 Bunker Defeat Munition (SMAW-D) grenade launcher in Ukraine

Lavrov also underlined Russia’s contention that NATO expansion is a threat, saying the alliance has engaged in offensive actions outside its member countries.

‘It is difficult to call it defensive. Do not forget that they bombed Yugoslavia for almost three months, invaded Libya, violating the U.N. Security Council resolution, and how they behaved in Afghanistan,’ he said.

The U.S. and NATO have formally rejected Russia’s demands about halting NATO expansion, though Washington outlined areas where discussions are possible, offering hope there could be a way to avoid war.

Lavrov also said Sunday that Russia wants ‘mutually respectful’ relations with the U.S. and denied posing a threat to Ukraine, as the UK said it was preparing fresh sanctions against Moscow. 

Tensions have soared between Moscow and Washington after Western governments accused Russia of amassing tens of thousands of troops on its border with ex-Soviet Ukraine.  

‘We want good, equal, mutually respectful relations with the United States, like with every country in the world,’ Lavrov told Russian TV on Sunday.

He added, however, that Russia does not want to remain in a position ‘where our security is infringed daily’. 

The U.S. on Sunday worked to ramp up diplomatic and financial pressure on Russia over Ukraine, promising to put Moscow on the defensive at the U.N. Security Council .

 The American ambassador to the United Nations said the Security Council will press Russia hard in a Monday session to discuss its massing of troops near Ukraine and fears it is planning an invasion.

‘Our voices are unified in calling for the Russians to explain themselves,’ Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said of the U.S. and the other council members on ABC’s ‘This Week.’ ‘We’re going into the room prepared to listen to them, but we’re not going to be distracted by their propaganda.’

Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., Oksana Markarova, warned that Putin is bent on waging an ‘attack on democracy,’ not just on a single country. It’s a case that some senior foreign policy figures have urged U.S. President Joe Biden to make, including at the Security Council.

‘If Ukraine will be further attacked by Russia, of course they will not stop in Ukraine,’ Markarova said on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation.’

Western leaders have scrambled to defuse the crisis by reaching out to Putin, while also vowing unprecedented sanctions should Moscow launch an attack. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Sunday NATO is trying to 'drag' Ukraine into the alliance. Lavrov addresses the State Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament in Moscow, Russia on Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Sunday NATO is trying to ‘drag’ Ukraine into the alliance. Lavrov addresses the State Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament in Moscow, Russia on Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on the West to avoid stirring ‘panic’ in the face of the Russian troop build-up, while Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said it was important to remain ‘firm’ in talks with Moscow.

Britain said it is preparing to unveil sanctions against Moscow that would target companies close to the Kremlin.

‘There will be nowhere to hide for Putin’s oligarchs,’ UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Sunday.

The Foreign Secretary urged Russia to step back from an invasion as Britain made clear it will boost troop numbers at Nato‘s borders and consider sending more weapons. 

A rocket launcher shoots missiles during tactical and special exercises with scouts of the Guards Tank Army of the Western Military District at the Golovenki training ground in the Moscow region, Russia, on January 28

A rocket launcher shoots missiles during tactical and special exercises with scouts of the Guards Tank Army of the Western Military District at the Golovenki training ground in the Moscow region, Russia, on January 28

Ms Truss said Nato powers had to ‘make sure’ that any incursion caused as many problems as possible for Russia, and predicted Ukrainians would ‘fight hard’.

‘This could well result in a quagmire like the Russians saw in Afghanistan or Chechnya,’ she said. 

The comments came after Boris Johnson said a new offer to Nato would ‘send a clear message to the Kremlin’ that ‘we will not tolerate their destabilising activity’.

In addition to bolstering troop numbers, No 10 said this could involve sending defensive weapons to Estonia.

Fast jets, warships and military specialists could also be sent to protect Nato allies. 

Liz Truss (pictured) today warned Vladimir Putin he faces a Ukraine 'quagmire' like Afghanistan or Chechnya as she warned there will be 'nowhere to hide' from sanctions

Liz Truss (pictured) today warned Vladimir Putin he faces a Ukraine ‘quagmire’ like Afghanistan or Chechnya as she warned there will be ‘nowhere to hide’ from sanctions

Ms Truss said: ‘We are offering to deploy extra troops into Estonia.

‘We are providing more air support across the Black Sea and we’re supplying defensive weapons to Ukraine to make sure that they are in the best possible position should Vladimir Putin try to stage an incursion.

‘What I’ll be announcing later this week is improved legislation on sanctions so we can target more Russian interests that are of direct relevance to the Kremlin, because we absolutely need to stop this happening. That is our number one priority.’

She added: ‘Of course, we’ll use diplomacy. I’m travelling to Ukraine this week. I’ll be travelling to Moscow next week.

‘However, the number one thing that will stop Vladimir Putin taking action is if he understands the costs of that action. This could result in a quagmire and he should be well aware of that.’

Ms Truss went on: ‘Currently, the economic sanctions are fairly narrowly drawn, so we could only target companies with a direct involvement in destabilising Ukraine.

‘What we are looking to do is widen that so any company of interest to the Kremlin and the regime in Russia would be able to be targeted, so there will be nowhere to hide for Putin’s oligarchs, for Russian companies involved in propping up the Russian state. That’s what we are looking at doing this week.’

Local residents train close to Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sunday amid warnings of an imminent invasion by Moscow

Local residents train close to Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sunday amid warnings of an imminent invasion by Moscow

Ms Truss reiterated the government’s call for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to be cancelled in response to Russia’s actions. 

‘Fundamentally, the most important thing is defending freedom and democracy, and that is more important than immediate financial issues,’ she said.

‘That is true not just for the United Kingdom, but also for our friends in Germany, who are now taking a much tougher line on Nord Stream 2. We cannot favour short-term economic interests over the long-term survival of freedom and democracy in Europe. That’s the tough decision all of us have got to make.’

Asked if she would tell the Germans it is time to cancel Nord Stream 2, she said: ‘Well, the Germans, (Chancellor) Olaf Scholz, has said that it’d be very difficult for Nord Stream 2 to go ahead in the event of a Russian incursion. So, we have seen a toughening of the Germans’ position on that. I had a good call this week with the German foreign minister.’

On whether Britain’s view is ‘if there’s an invasion, Nord Stream 2 stops’, she said: ‘Completely.’ 

Downing Street said the possible deployment would ‘reinforce Nato’s defences and underpin the UK’s support for Nordic and Baltic partners’.

The move comes as the Prime Minister is expected to speak to Russian president Vladimir Putin and travel to the troubled region early this week.

A Ukrainian Servicemen patrols the frontline outside of Svitlodarsk, Ukraine on January 30

A Ukrainian Servicemen patrols the frontline outside of Svitlodarsk, Ukraine on January 30

A second trip to meet Nato member counterparts is being planned for early next month, No 10 said.

The details of the offer will be finalised by UK officials and Nato in Brussels next week, while ministers will discuss the military options on Monday.

Mr Johnson has also directed Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to prepare to go to Moscow for talks with their counterparts in the coming days.

They will be asked to improve relationships with the Russian government and encourage de-escalation, Downing Street said.

In addition, Mr Wallace is expected to travel to meet with allies this week in Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia on Mr Johnson’s behalf.

Meanwhile, the Mr Johnson has asked the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, to attend Cabinet on Tuesday to brief ministers on the situation in Ukraine.

The UK already has more than 100 troops providing training in Ukraine as part of Operation Orbital.

There are also 900 British military personnel based in Estonia, and a Light Cavalry Squadron of around 150 people is deployed to Poland, No 10 said.

It comes after Mr Johnson asked defence and security chiefs to consider further defensive military options in Europe during a high-level intelligence briefing on the situation last week.

The Prime Minister said: ‘This package would send a clear message to the Kremlin – we will not tolerate their destabilising activity, and we will always stand with our Nato allies in the face of Russian hostility.

‘If President Putin chooses a path of bloodshed and destruction, it will be a tragedy for Europe. Ukraine must be free to choose its own future.

‘I have ordered our Armed Forces to prepare to deploy across Europe next week, ensuring we are able to support our Nato allies on land, at sea and in the air.’

Boris Johnson (pictured on a visit to the RAF base in Anglesey last week) said a new offer to Nato would 'send a clear message to the Kremlin' that 'we will not tolerate their destabilising activity'

Boris Johnson (pictured on a visit to the RAF base in Anglesey last week) said a new offer to Nato would ‘send a clear message to the Kremlin’ that ‘we will not tolerate their destabilising activity’

Labour earlier accused the Prime Minister of ‘playing catch-up with other world leaders’ on deterring Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Shadow defence secretary John Healey reiterated calls for the imposition of a ‘register of overseas entities’ to ‘lift the veil on who owns property and assets in the UK’, after it was reported that American officials fear they will not be able to effectively sanction Mr Putin because of Russian money ‘entrenched’ in London.

US president Joe Biden has suggested moving to penalise the Russian president could be an option in the case of an invasion.

When asked last week if he could see himself sanctioning Mr Putin in those circumstances, Mr Biden told reporters: ‘Yes, I would see that.’

Asked if the UK would support personal sanctions against the Russian president, Ms Truss told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday that the Government had ‘ruled nothing out’.

Ms Truss has been forthright in speaking out against Russia’s threatened invasion of Ukraine, and took the unusual step of declassifying intelligence which suggested Mr Putin was plotting to install a pro-Moscow leader as head of the government in Kyiv.

Putin on Friday held a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to speak with the Russian leader next week.  

Russian military vehicles prepares to drive off a railway platforms after arrival in Belarus on January 29

Russian military vehicles prepares to drive off a railway platforms after arrival in Belarus on January 29

Several Western officials are expected to visit Ukraine in the coming days, including French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock and Polish Prime Minster Mateusz Morawiecki.

Canada’s Defence Minister Anita Anand arrived for a two-day visit to Kyiv Sunday after her government announced it will extend its ongoing training mission in Ukraine and sent non-lethal supplies, such as bulletproof vests.

Following a flurry of diplomatic efforts over the past weeks, Washington and NATO presented Moscow with a written response to its security demands.

Russia said the replies, which were not made public, did not address its main concerns but did not rule out further talks.

Ukraine has turned increasingly to the West since Moscow seized the Crimea peninsula in 2014 and began fuelling a separatist conflict in the east of the country that has claimed over 13,000 lives.        

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