Reuters-By Dmitry Antonov and Sabine Siebold
A service member of the Ukrainian armed forces walks at combat positions near the line of separation from Russian-backed rebels near Horlivka in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, January 22, 2022. Picture taken January 22, 2022. Picture taken REUTERS/Anna Kudriavtseva/File Photo
MOSCOW/BRUSSELS, Jan 24 (Reuters) – NATO said on Monday it was putting forces on standby and reinforcing eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets, and could also send additional troops to its south-east flank, in what Russia denounced as an escalation of tensions over Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the West of “hysteria” and putting out information “laced with lies”.
“As for specific actions, we see statements by the North Atlantic Alliance about reinforcement, pulling forces and resources to the eastern flank. All this leads to the fact that tensions are growing,” he said.
“This is not happening because of what we, Russia, are doing. This is all happening because of what NATO and the U.S. are doing and due to the information they are spreading.”
Global stock markets skidded as the prospect of a Russian attack quashed demand for riskier assets such as bitcoin, and bolstered the dollar and oil. The rouble hit a 14-month low against the dollar, and Russian stocks and bonds tumbled.
Russia has used its troop build-up to draw the West into discussions after presenting demands to redraw Europe’s security map. It wants NATO never to admit Ukraine and to pull back troops and weapons from former Communist countries in eastern Europe that joined it after the Cold War.
Washington says those demands are non-starters but is ready to discuss other ideas on arms control, missile deployments and confidence-building measures.
Russia is awaiting a written U.S. response this week after talks last Friday – the fourth round this month – produced no breakthrough.
“PAINFUL, VIOLENT AND BLOODY”
Asked whether he thought an invasion was imminent, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told broadcasters that intelligence was “pretty gloomy on this point” but that “sense can still prevail.”
He repeated Western warnings that invading Ukraine would be “a painful, violent and bloody business” for Russia.
The United States and the European Union, wary of Russia’s intentions since it seized Crimea and backed separatists fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine in 2014, have told Russia it will face crippling penalties if it attacks again.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels warned Russia it would face “massive” consequences, but are divided over how tough to be on Moscow and did not say what the consequences might be.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told EU President Charles Michel by phone that it was important for Kyiv that the EU showed unity.
“Ukraine will not fall for provocations, and together with its partners, will remain calm and restrained,” his office said.
A Russian delegation source said political advisers from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany would meet in Paris on Wednesday for talks on resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine, in which some 15,000 people have been killed since 2014. Previous efforts have failed to yield any breakthrough.
Several countries, including France, Norway and Latvia, have advised against non-essential travel to Ukraine.
Reporting by Dmitry Antonov and Sabine Siebold, Additional reporting by Andrew Osborn, Darya Korsunskaya, Ekaterina Golubkova, Alexander Marrow and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv; Marine Strauss and Robin Emmott in Brussels; William James and William Schomberg in London; and Phil Stewart in Washington; writing by Mark Trevelyan and Ingrid Melander, editing by Timothy Heritage and Rosalba O’Brien
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