Latest Ukraine updates: Biden warns Putin over Ukraine invasion

Ukraine news from February 11: US president tells Russian leader an invasion would ‘produce widespread human suffering’.

US President Joe Biden holds virtual talks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin
Joe Biden holds virtual talks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin on Saturday amid Western fears Moscow plans to attack Ukraine [White House handout via Reuters]

US President Joe Biden held talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a video call and told him Washington and its allies would respond “decisively” if Russia invades Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, meanwhile, accused the United States of waging a “propaganda campaign” against Moscow in a phone call with his American counterpart Antony Blinken.

And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said warnings of Russian aggression were stoking “panic” after the US national security advisor warned of an imminent Russian invasion.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Ukraine-Russia crisis. I am Linah Alsaafin with the latest updates.

This is Umut Uras, taking over the live coverage from my colleague at 13:00 GMT.

The live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. Here are the updates for February 12.

EU not closing diplomatic missions in Kyiv: foreign policy chief

The European Union is not withdrawing its diplomatic presence from Ukraine, its foreign policy chief has said, after the US warned that Russian forces could invade at any time.

“The EU and its member states are coordinating their actions in view of the current threats on Ukraine. Our diplomatic missions are not closing. They remain in Kyiv and continue to operate in support to EU citizens and in cooperation with the Ukrainian authorities,” Josep Borrell said in a statement.

“We recall that any further military aggression against Ukraine will have massive consequences and severe cost in response,” Borrell said.

Kremlin denounces US ‘peak hysteria’ after Putin-Biden call

The Kremlin has denounced US “peak hysteria” surrounding the Ukraine conflict but said Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden had agreed to continue dialogue.

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.”

Ushakov said that the US side had requested to arrange phone talks between Biden and Putin on Saturday even though such a call had initially been planned for Monday.

Biden warns Putin of ‘severe costs’ of Ukraine invasion

In a video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Joe Biden made clear that if Russia invades Ukraine, Washington and its allies would respond “decisively and impose swift and severe costs”, according to the White House.

According to a readout of the hour-long call, Biden told Putin an invasion would “produce widespread human suffering and diminish Russia’s standing” in the world.

The US remains committed to diplomacy, but is “equally prepared for other scenarios”, the White House statement said.

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin
Biden and Putin talked for more than an hour, according to the White House [File: Reuters]

Biden and Putin talk for more than one hour: White House

A call between Biden and Putin on the Russian troops massing next to Ukraine ended after one hour and two minutes, according to the White House.

“President Biden’s secure call with Russian President Putin was completed” at 12:06pm (17:06 GMT), an official said. The call started at 16:04 GMT.

Russia says it chased off US submarine from its waters

A Russian naval vessel chased away a US submarine in Russian waters in the Pacific after it ignored a Russian order to surface, Interfax news agency cited the defence ministry as saying.

The Russian ministry called in the US defence attache after complaining the submarine entered its waters, the RIA news agency reported.

The submarine was spotted near the Kuril islands early on Saturday as Russia was conducting naval exercises with its Pacific Fleet and it was ordered to surface immediately, the Russian ministry was quoted as saying.

Macron and Putin talked for 90 minutes

French President Emmanuel Macron told Vladimir Putin that sincere negotiations were incompatible with an escalation in tensions over Ukraine, according to Elysee Palace.

Following the French president’s trip to Moscow earlier this week, Macron and Putin discussed ways to move forward on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements as well conditions for security and stability in Europe.

The call lasted nearly 90 minutes, the Elysee said.

Slovakia recommends avoiding travel to Ukraine

Slovakia recommended its citizens avoid travel to neighbouring Ukraine, and is pulling out family members of diplomats at its embassy in Kyiv and a consulate in the western city of Uzhhorod, according to the foreign ministry.

EU and NATO member Slovakia shares a near 100km (60 mile) border with Ukraine in the east.

“The decision is based on an evaluation of the latest shared intelligence information that speaks about further deterioration of the security environment and escalation of tensions,” a ministry spokesman said.

US withdraws nearly all remaining soldiers from Ukraine: Pentagon

Washington is withdrawing nearly all of its remaining soldiers from Ukraine, the Pentagon has announced, as tensions soar over a possible Russian invasion of the eastern European country.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “has ordered the temporary repositioning of the 160 members of the Florida National Guard” who were in the country “advising and mentoring Ukrainian forces”, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

The troops – who Kirby said were being withdrawn “with the safety and security of our personnel foremost in mind” – will be repositioned “elsewhere in Europe”.

Putin, Macron discuss Ukraine crisis by phone: reports

Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron discussed the Ukraine crisis in a telephone call that lasted one hour and 40 minutes, according to Interfax news agency citing the Kremlin.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov gave no further details.

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) in Moscow
Putin received Macron in the Kremlin earlier this week to discuss Ukraine tensions [File: Reuters]

Thousands march in Kyiv against Russian threat

Several thousand Ukrainians have rallied to show unity amid fears of a Russian invasion, as Ukraine’s leader told people not to panic and pushed back against what he said was a glut of bleak war predictions being reported in the media.

Ukrainians marched through the centre of Kyiv in a column, chanting “Glory to Ukraine” and carrying Ukrainian flags and banners that said “Ukrainians will resist” and “Invaders must die”.

“Panic is useless. We must unite and fight for independence,” said student Maria Shcherbenko.

Read more

People take part in the Unity March against Russia in Kyiv
Ukrainians take part in the march against the threat of a Russian invasion [Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters]

Ukraine leader says warnings of Russian invasion stoking ‘panic’

Volodymyr Zelenskyy says warnings of an imminent Russian attack on his country were stoking “panic” and demanded to see firm proof of a planned invasion.

“We understand all the risks. We understand that the risks are there,” Zelenskyy told reporters.

“Right now, the people’s biggest enemy is panic in our country. And all this information is only provoking panic and not helping us,” he said.

“If you or anyone has any additional information about a 100-percent chance of an invasion, give it to us.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the worst enemy is ‘panic’ in the country [File: Reuters]

Lavrov talks to Blinken, accuses US of anti-Russia ‘propaganda’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused Washington of waging a “propaganda campaign” about possible Russian aggression.

In a readout of a phone call with US counterpart Antony Blinken, Lavrov also said Washington and Brussels had ignored key Russian security demands.

Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine and a surge of military activity has fuelled fears that Russia could invade. Moscow denies having any such plans.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
Lavrov says Washington and Brussels ignored key Russian security demands [File: Reuters]

Jordan urges its nationals to leave Ukraine

Jordan has called on its nationals to leave Ukraine in light of the “current developments.”

The foreign ministry, in a statement, also called on citizens to postpone any plans to visit the country.

Netherlands urges citizens to leave Ukraine

Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra has called on Dutch citizens to leave Ukraine as soon as possible due to the security situation there and issued a notice advising against travelling to the country.

Ukraine law enforcement officers hold drills

Ukrainian law enforcement forces have held drills in the Kherson region, 30km (18 miles) from Russia-occupied Crimea.

More than 1,000 law enforcement officers took part in the drills that aim to prepare for the “timely and effective response to situational destabilising factors”, the Ministry of Internal Affairs said in a statement.

Police officers, national and border guards, officials from the State Migration Service of Ukraine and cadets from Odessa State University of Internal Affairs took part in the exercises, which simulated a law enforcement response to a riot.

Germany urges its citizens to leave Ukraine

Germany has advised its citizens in Ukraine to leave the country if possible.

“If you are currently in Ukraine, check whether your presence is strictly required. If not, leave at short notice,” the Foreign Office in Berlin announced.

Russia rejects US claims of planned Ukraine invasion

Russian ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, rejected US warnings that Moscow is planning to invade Ukraine, and accused the US of spreading “alarmism” without any evidence.

The statements in Washington show the US has intensified its “propaganda campaign against our country”, and wants to create the impression that aggression is “inevitable”, he added.

US orders non-emergency embassy staff to leave Ukraine

The US State Department has ordered non-emergency US embassy staff to leave Ukraine amid rising tensions with Russia, the embassy said, citing the military build-up at the border as an indicator for potential significant military action.

“Despite the reduction in diplomatic staff, the core embassy team, our dedicated Ukrainian colleagues, and @StateDept and US personnel around the world will continue relentless diplomatic and assistance efforts in support of Ukraine’s security, democracy, and prosperity,” it said on Twitter.

The US has also decided to withdraw the American staff at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) from Ukraine immediately, two diplomatic sources told Reuters.

Russia holds military exercise near Ukraine’s border

Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from near an airfield in southern Belarus close to the Ukrainian border, said Russian military exercises appear to be taking place at the site.

“We have seen dozens of Russian trucks coming out of the airfield around half an hour ago. There is military activity here for sure – we’ve heard helicopters taking off, we’ve heard what seem to be shooting exercises,” she said.

“On the other hand, it’s also quite calm here in this area. In the village nearby everything is ordinary and people are going about their normal business.”

Russia pulls some diplomatic staff out of Ukraine

Russia said it has pulled some of its diplomatic staff out of Ukraine for fear of “provocations” from Kyiv or its allies amid mounting warnings of a possible Russian invasion of its neighbour.

“Fearing possible provocations from the Kyiv regime or other countries we have indeed decided to optimise staffing at Russian missions in Ukraine,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a press release.

Zakharova did not say whether that meant a reduction in staff numbers but said the embassy and consulates in Ukraine continued to perform their key functions.

Ukraine says ‘critically important to remain calm’

Ukraine urged its citizens to keep calm and avoid panicking in the face of mounting worries that Russia was preparing to invade.

“At the moment, it is critically important to remain calm, to consolidate inside the country, to avoid destabilising actions and those that sow panic,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The armed force of Ukraine are constantly monitoring the situation and are ready to rebuff any encroachment on its territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

Kyiv could be ‘possible target’ of invasion: Intelligence

Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler said intelligence sources from Western powers are saying Russian forces “could be considering surrounding the capital Kyiv”.

“Here in the capital city, authorities are reopening bomb shelters that were built during the Cold War by the Russians,” she said, speaking from Kyiv. “Those bomb shelters would be ready, says the mayor of Kyiv, should they be needed.”

Butler said the residents of the city know that the situation is “extremely tense” and that there is a sense that it could be “a lot more critical than before”.

Ukraine's biggest national flag on the country's highest flagpole and the giant 'Motherland' monument are seen at a compound of the World War II museum in Kyiv
Ukraine’s biggest national flag on the country’s highest flagpole and the giant Motherland monument are seen at a compound of the World War II museum in Kyiv, Ukraine, December 16, 2021 [File: Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters]

More than 30 Russian ships start drills near Crimea: RIA

More than 30 ships from the Russian Black Sea fleet have started training exercises near the Crimean Peninsula as part of wider navy drills, the RIA news agency reported.

RIA said more than 30 Russian ships have left the ports of Sevastopol and Novorossiisk “in accordance to the plans of the drills” near Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

RIA said the aim of the drills was the defence of the coast of Crimea, the outposts of the Black Sea fleet as well as the economy and naval communications.

Biden and Putin to talk as Ukraine warnings mount

Presidents Biden and Putin are set to hold talks on Saturday as Washington detailed increasingly vivid accounts of a possible attack on Ukraine.

Putin requested for the telephone call to take place on Monday, a White House official said, but Biden wanted to conduct it sooner.

Putin, jostling for influence in post-Cold War Europe, is seeking security guarantees from Biden to block Kyiv’s entry into NATO and missile deployments near Russia’s borders.

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

Blinken says he will speak to Russia’s Lavrov

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he will speak to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov about Russia’s response to US proposals to resolve the crisis.

“If Russia is genuinely interested in resolving this crisis of its own making through diplomacy and dialogue, we’re prepared to do that,” he said in a news conference in Fiji.

“But it must take place in the context of de-escalation. So far, we’ve only seen escalation from Moscow.”

UK tells its citizens in Ukraine not to expect military evacuation

British nationals who choose to stay in Ukraine should not expect a military evacuation if conflict with Russia ensues, junior defence minister James Heappey told Sky News.

“British nationals should leave Ukraine immediately by any means possible and they should not expect, as they saw in the summer with Afghanistan, that there would be any possibility of a military evacuation,” he said.

On Friday, the UK government advised British nationals to leave Ukraine immediately while commercial means were still available and advised against all further travel to the country.

You can see updates from Friday, February 11 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies