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A rally against a possible escalation of the tension between Russia and Ukraine in Kyiv yesterday. Sipa USA/Alamy Live News
ukraine crisis

Biden warns Putin Ukraine attack would bring 'severe costs'

A Russian diplomat said Moscow “doesn’t give a s**t” about the risk of Western sanctions if it were to invade Ukraine.

EFFORTS TO DEFUSE the crisis in Ukraine via a frenzy of telephone diplomacy failed to ease tensions yesterday, with US President Joe Biden warning that Russia faces “swift and severe costs” if its troops carry out an invasion.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin slammed Western claims that Moscow was planning such a move as “provocative speculation” that could lead to conflict in the ex-Soviet country, according to a Russian readout of a call with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Speaking after new phone talks between Putin and Biden, the Kremlin’s top foreign policy advisor Yury Ushakov told a conference call: “Hysteria has reached its peak.”

Weeks of tensions that have seen Russia nearly surround its western neighbor with more than 100,000 troops intensified after Washington warned that an all-out invasion could begin “any day” and Russia launched its biggest naval drills in years across the Black Sea.

“If Russia undertakes a further invasion of Ukraine, the United States together with our allies and partners will respond decisively and impose swift and severe costs on Russia,” Biden told Putin, according to the White House.

While the United States was prepared to engage in diplomacy, “we are equally prepared for other scenarios,” Biden said, as the two nations stare down one of the gravest crises in East-West relations since the Cold War.

While the Biden-Putin talks were “professional and substantive,” lasting just over an hour, they produced “no fundamental change” in dynamics, a senior US official told reporters.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated a US warning that Russia could stage a “false flag” incident to invade.

“No one should be surprised if Russia instigates a provocation or incident, which it then uses to justify military action it had planned all along,” said Blinken, who spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Saturday.

Russia’s defense ministry added to the febrile atmosphere by announcing that it had chased off a US submarine it said had crossed into its territorial waters near the Kuril Islands in the northern Pacific.

But the US Indo-Pacific Command denied it had been operating in Russian territorial waters.

‘Possible provocations’

Russia added to the ominous tone by pulling some of its diplomatic staff out of Ukraine, with the foreign ministry saying its decision was prompted by fears of “possible provocations from the Kyiv regime.”

kyiv-ukraine-12th-feb-2022-ukrainians-attend-an-open-military-training-for-civilians-range-as-part-of-the-dont-panic-get-ready-which-is-carried-out-by-veterans-of-the-azov-battalion-on-a-tr Ukrainians attend open military training for civilians yesterday. Sipa USA / Alamy Live News Sipa USA / Alamy Live News / Alamy Live News

But Washington and a host of European countries along with Israel cited the growing threat of a Russian invasion as they called on their citizens to leave Ukraine as soon possible.

Britain and the United States also pulled out the majority of their remaining military advisors, while the US embassy ordered “most” of its Kyiv staff to leave.

Australia said it had directed all remaining embassy staff in Kyiv to evacuate, and Canada said it was closing its embassy temporarily and moving operations to the western city of Lviv.

Dutch carrier KLM announced that it was suspending commercial flights to Ukraine until further notice.

The prospect of fleeing Westerners prompted Kyiv to issue an appeal to its citizens to “remain calm.”

“Right now, the people’s biggest enemy is panic,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on a visit to troops stationed near the Russian-annexed peninsula of Crimea.


Moscow “doesn’t give a shit” about the risk of Western sanctions if it were to invade Ukraine, Russia’s outspoken ambassador to Sweden told a Swedish newspaper.

“Excuse my language, but we don’t give a shit about all their sanctions”, Viktor Tatarintsev told the Aftonbladet newspaper in an interview posted on its website late yesterday.

“We have already had so many sanctions and in that sense they’ve had a positive effect on our economy and agriculture,” said the veteran diplomat, who speaks fluent Swedish and has been posted to the Scandinavian country four times.

“We are more self-sufficient and have been able to increase our exports. We have no Italian or Swiss cheeses, but we’ve learned to make just as good Russian cheeses using Italian and Swiss recipes”, he said.

“New sanctions are nothing positive but not as bad as the West makes it sound”, he added.

Tatarintsev accused the West of not understanding the Russian mentality.

“The more the West pushes Russia, the stronger the Russian response will be,” he said.

The diplomat insisted Moscow was trying to avoid a war.

“That is our political leadership’s most sincere wish. The last thing people in Russia want is war.”

© – AFP, 2022

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