US reaffirms warning that Russia could invade Ukraine as Scholz heads for Kyiv
Washington reiterated its warning on Sunday that Russia could invade Ukraine at any time and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz prepared to visit both countries to try to avert a crisis that Berlin said had reached a fever pitch. critical point”.
Kyiv has also been rushing to keep its airspace open after KLM became the first major airline to suspend operations due to threats posed by Russian troops carrying out military exercises across Ukraine’s borders.
Western countries are ending diplomatic missions and urging their citizens to leave immediately after a frantic week of diplomacy failed to calm one of the most volatile standoffs since the Cold War.
US President Joe Biden briefed Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky on an hour-long conversation with Russian Vladimir Putin he had on Saturday that yielded no breakthrough.
Zelensky’s office said the Ukrainian leader had invited Biden to visit Kyiv “in the coming days” to show moral support and send “a powerful signal” to Russia.
Washington made no mention of an invitation in his reading of the 50-minute call.
But US national security adviser Jake Sullivan issued a grim assessment that an invasion that could begin “any day” would likely begin with “a major barrage of missiles and bombings. “.
Western leaders are pushing back on Putin’s demands that the US-led NATO alliance withdraw from Eastern Europe and never expand into Ukraine.
But Putin rejects calls by Biden and others to withdraw Russian forces from Ukraine’s borders.
Washington warned that Russian deployments – estimated at 130,000 troops backed by various missiles and tanks – were enough to launch a major attack “any day”.
Germany’s Scholz said on the eve of his crucial trip to Kyiv on Monday and Moscow on Tuesday that Western allies would “immediately” sanction Russia if it invaded.
“In the event of military aggression against Ukraine that threatens its territorial integrity and sovereignty, this will lead to severe sanctions which we have carefully prepared,” he said.
“We assess the situation as very critical, very dangerous,” added a German government source.
Memories of MH17
Dutch carrier KLM on Saturday became the first major airline to suspend flights to the former Soviet republic indefinitely due to rising risks.
Ukrainian low-cost airline SkyUp said on Sunday its flight from Portugal to Kiev was forced to land in Moldova because the plane’s Irish leasing company revoked permission to fly through Ukraine.
SkyUp added that European leasing companies required Ukrainian airlines to bring their planes back into EU airspace within 48 hours.
Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry responded by holding an emergency meeting aimed at maintaining foreign travel and preventing the country from further isolating itself in the heat of the crisis.
“The airspace over Ukraine remains open and the state is working to anticipate risks for airlines,” the ministry said after the meeting.
Industry analysts believe other international airlines may soon ban flights to Ukraine due to the rising cost to insurers.
The travel industry is still haunted by the memory of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 being shot down while flying near the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine in July 2014.
All 298 passengers on the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight have died.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Infrastructure has acknowledged that “some carriers are facing difficulties related to fluctuations in the insurance market”.
“The state is ready to support the airlines and provide them with additional financial guarantees in order to support the market,” he said.
Aliens on the run
Concerns about air travel are accompanied by a growing number of Western governments winding down missions and advising citizens to get outside.
The US State Department on Saturday ordered all non-emergency embassy personnel to leave Ukraine.
Russia has raised fears of “possible provocations by the Kiev regime” as it also begins to withdraw embassy staff.
“I’m leaving because of the situation, because I enjoy my life,” Moroccan Aimrane Bouziane said before boarding his flight home.
“I think the smartest choice to make is to leave Ukraine now,” said the 23-year-old entrepreneur.
The diplomatic withdrawal affected the personnel of the observation mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Ukraine.
The OSCE has served as the world’s eyes and ears for the eight-year conflict in the Russian-backed separatist east of Ukraine that has claimed more than 14,000 lives.
But footage on social media showed convoys of its white SUVs leaving various parts of the conflict zone as staff moved to comply with travel advisories from their respective governments.
The OSCE said that “some participating states” had asked their members of the observation missions to “leave Ukraine in the coming days”.
But it is emphasized that his mission continued “in 10 cities across Ukraine”.
The Ukrainian government has tried to anticipate the flood of foreigners leaving the country by appealing for calm and criticizing American warnings of a potentially imminent war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday that “all this information only causes panic and does not help us”.