Ambassador clarifies remarks after Ukraine may drop NATO bid to avoid war

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Updated at 9:45 a.m.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Britain clarified his remarks after it was reported that he said Ukraine may drop its NATO bid to avoid war with Russia.

Later, clarifying his remarks, Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko said that the former Soviet republic would not reconsider its attempt to join the military alliance.

When asked whether or not Ukraine might reconsider its ambitions to join NATO, he told the BBC in English: “No, it’s not and I’m quite happy to have this chance to clarify my position”.

Mr Prystaiko said the previous BBC report was the result of a misunderstanding.

“We are not members of NATO at the moment and to avoid war we are ready for many concessions and that is what we do in our conversations with the Russians,” Prystaiko said. “It has nothing to do with NATO which is enshrined in the constitution.”

“It’s not a delay in our ambitions to be in NATO – what we’re talking about is that we’re not in the family now, so we have to look for something else like bilateral agreements with the Kingdom United, with the United States,” he said. noted. “So, in addition to NATO, we are looking for other arrangements that would enable us to survive this particular ordeal at this time.”

‘Any day’

The United States has warned that Russia could invade Ukraine at any time and could create a surprise pretext for an attack.

Russia has more than 100,000 troops massed near Ukraine, which is not part of the Atlantic military alliance, and Washington – while keeping open diplomatic channels that have so far failed to appease the crisis – repeatedly declared that an invasion was imminent.

Moscow denies any such plans and has accused the West of “hysteria”.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, on the eve of a trip that will take him to Kyiv on Monday and Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, called on Russia to de-escalate and warned of sanctions if Moscow invades .

A German official said Berlin did not expect “concrete results”, but diplomacy was important.

In Washington, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said an invasion could begin “any day.”

We can’t perfectly predict the day, but we’ve been saying for a while now that we’re in the window

“We can’t predict the day perfectly, but we’ve been saying for a while now that we’re in the window,” Sullivan told CNN.

US officials said they could not confirm reports that US intelligence indicated Russia planned to invade on Wednesday.

Sullivan said Washington would continue to share what it learned with the world in order to deprive Moscow of the chance to stage a surprise “false flag” operation that could be used as a pretext for an attack.

It would also “defend every square inch of NATO territory…and Russia, we think, fully understands that message,” Sullivan added in a separate CBS interview.

Mr Biden spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Sunday and they agreed on the importance of continuing diplomacy and deterrence in response to Russia’s military build-up, the White House said after the call.

Mr. Zelenskiy’s office said it had invited Mr. Biden to visit Ukraine soon. The White House declined to comment.

In line with the US assessment that an invasion could happen ‘at any time’, a UK government spokesman said Britain was working on a package of military support and economic aid to Ukraine which will be announced in the coming days. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will visit Europe later this week to build support to end the standoff with Russia.

Mr Biden told Mr Putin in a phone call on Saturday that the West would respond decisively to any invasion and that such an attack would harm and isolate Moscow.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Twitter that Kiev had so far received nearly 1,500 tons of munitions from allies delivered on 17 flights, including about 180 tons from the United States.

Canada’s Defense Ministry said it had temporarily withdrawn its Ukraine-based military personnel to an undisclosed location in Europe. Canada, home to the third-largest Ukrainian population in the world after Ukraine and Russia, has maintained a 200-person training mission in western Ukraine since 2015.

Russian security requirements

The Kremlin said Mr Putin told Mr Biden during their call on Saturday that Washington had failed to take into account Russia’s main concerns and that he had received no “substantial response” on the elements key to its security requirements.

Mr Putin wants guarantees from the United States and NATO, including blocking Ukraine’s entry into NATO, refraining from missile deployments near Russian borders and reducing infrastructure NATO military in Europe at 1997 levels.

Washington views many proposals as non-starters but has pushed the Kremlin to discuss them jointly with Washington and its European allies.

“The diplomatic path remains open. The way for Moscow to show that it wants to continue down this path is simple,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said after talks with Asian allies on Saturday.

Washington and its European allies and others have reduced or evacuated embassy staff and urged citizens to leave immediately or avoid traveling to Ukraine.

US personnel from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) began driving out of the rebel town of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, a Reuters witness said.

The OSCE is carrying out operations in Ukraine, including a civilian observation mission in the self-proclaimed Russian-backed breakaway republics in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where a war that began in 2014 has killed more than 14,000 people.

Suspended flights

Ukraine said on Sunday it wants talks with Russia and OSCE members within 48 hours to discuss Russia’s military buildup. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Moscow failed to respond after Kiev invoked part of the Vienna Document, a set of security agreements, on Friday to ask Moscow to explain its military activities .

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Ukrainian Zelensky asks for evidence of a new invasion…

Dutch carrier KLM said it would stop flying to Ukraine and German Lufthansa said it was considering suspending flights.

An adviser to Mr Zelenskiy, Mykhailo Podolyak, said no matter what the airlines chose to do, Kyiv would not shut down its airspace as it would look like “some kind of partial blockade”.

A French presidential official said on Saturday, after President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Mr Putin, that nothing in the Russian leader’s remarks indicated that Moscow was planning an offensive, although Paris remained “extremely vigilant”. .

Britain’s Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has warned against putting too much hope in the talks, telling The Sunday Times of London that there was “a smell of Munich in the air of some in West,” referring to a 1938 pact that failed to halt German expansionism under Adolf Hitler.

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