German Chancellor Olaf Scholz demanded Moscow urgently show “signs of de-escalation” over the crisis at the Ukrainian border as he embarked on a two-day trip to Kyiv and Moscow.
Scholz wrote on Twitter on Monday morning that during his visit to Ukraine he will “express our continued solidarity and support”.
“We urgently expect signs of de-escalation from Moscow,” he added. “Another military aggression would have very serious consequences for Russia. I am in absolute agreement with our allies on this. We are experiencing a very, very serious threat to peace in Europe.”
Scholz’s two-day trip comes after his government was criticised for refusing to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine or spell out which sanctions it would support against Russia, raising questions about Berlin’s resolve to stand up to Russia.
Ahead of the trip, the Ukrainian ambassador to Berlin decried what he called “German hypocrisy”.
Andrij Melnyk wrote on Twitter on Sunday that while Berlin is not sending weapons “for Ukraine’s self-defence against Russia military invasion”, it has exported 366 million worth of dual-use goods in Russia in 2020 “which can be destined to boost weapons production”.
‘Swift and severe costs’
The German chancellor’s visit to Ukraine and Moscow is the latest in a series of meetings between Western allies and Russian authorities over fears Russia is gearing up to invade its neighbour. Moscow has repeatedly denied it wants to attack Ukraine.
More than 100,000 Russian troops and military equipment are deployed near the border with Ukraine. Russian forces are in Belarus, which borders Ukraine too, while six Russian amphibious assault ships have been moved to the Black Sea.
Washington warned on Friday that its latest intelligence suggests Moscow could invade before the end of the Winter Olympics on February 20. Several Western nations have since urged their nationals to leave Ukraine as soon as possible, while the EU’s mission in Ukraine has told its non-essential staff they could work remotely from out of the country.
US President Joe Biden and French leader Emmanuel Macron both talked with their Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Saturday.
Biden reiterated to Putin that a military incursion in Ukraine would result in “swift and severe costs” for Russia and made clear that while Washington “remains prepared to engage in diplomacy, in full coordination with our Allies and partners, we are equally prepared for other scenarios,” according to a readout of the call from the White House.
Both western leaders also had calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The Elysée said Macron praised Zelenskyy for his “composure in a particularly volatile context” and reaffirmed “his support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.”
“The two presidents wish to continue the dialogue in the Normandy format for the implementation of the Minsk Agreement and a lasting solution in the Donbas,” the French presidential palace added.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said that during his talk with the French president, Putin “drew attention to the absence of a substantive response from the United States and NATO to the Russian initiatives”.
The Kremlin added that the two leaders also discussed “the situation concerning provocative speculations regarding the allegedly planned Russian ‘invasion’ of Ukraine, which is accompanied by massive supplied of modern weaponry to Ukraine, thus creating conditions for possible aggressive actions by the Ukrainian military in Donbas”.
Russia has denied plans to invade Ukraine but demanded NATO guarantee the country will never be allowed to become a member and that alliance troops pull back from eastern countries including Romania.