Friday, March 1

Russia-Ukraine: Zelenskyy urges more action by Western leaders as tensions mount: LIVE UPDATES

Pentagon spox gives examples of what is on, off the table in Russia negotiations

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Sunday that despite evidence that Russia is preparing to strike Ukraine, the US remains committed to pursuing a diplomatic solution, and Kirby illustrated what negotiations with the Kremlin could look like.

In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Kirby said that the Biden administration has “made serious proposals about ways that we can change things we’re doing in Europe,” in order to address concerns of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We have made serious proposals about ways that we can change things we’re doing in Europe to try to address the situation,” Kirby said, adding that “some things are clearly off the table.”

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Sec. Austin: Russia invasion threat not a ‘bluff,’ will create ‘enormous casualties’

Russian President Vladimir Putin has assembled “the right kinds of things” to conduct a successful invasion, according to Secretary of Defense Gen. Lloyd Austin.

Austin told ABC’s “This Week” that Putin has shown no signs of pulling back, and he does not believe that the threat of invasion is any kind of political “bluff.”

“I don’t think it’s a bluff,” Austin said. “I think he’s assembled the right kinds of things you would need to conduct a successful invasion.”

“If they were redeploying to garrison, we wouldn’t be seeing the kinds of things in terms of not only combat power but of logistical support, medical support, combat aviation we’ve seen.”

Cruz: Joe Biden becoming president was ‘best thing’ for Vladimir Putin

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told “Fox News Sunday” that Biden’s election served as the best opening Putin could hope for to press his agenda.

“I authored sanctions, bipartisan sanctions in Congress, they passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities,” Cruz said. “That pipeline was dead for over a year until Joe Biden became president, and Putin began building that pipeline again… four days after Biden was sworn into office.”

“I gotta say, Bill, Joe Biden becoming President is the best thing that ever happened, tragically, for Vladimir Putin,” he added.

Russia extends troop drills near Ukraine as violence spikes

Russia extended military drills near Ukraine’s northern borders Sunday amid increased fears that two days of sustained shelling along the contact line between soldiers and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine could spark an invasion.

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The exercises, originally set to end Sunday, brought a sizable contingent of Russian forces to neighboring Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north. The presence of the Russian troops raised concern that they could be used to sweep down on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

The announcement came from the defense minister of Belarus, who said the two countries would “continue testing the response forces.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Russia-Ukraine outcome presents little upside for Biden, but ‘downside’ possible: Strategists

Political strategists on both sides of the aisle minimized the effect that the Russia-Ukraine crisis could have on the 2022 midterm elections, with the caveat that a Russian invasion could be seen as another foreign policy failure for President Biden.

Voters tend to vote on domestic issues, the strategists said, and while Biden could receive positive marks if he helps to avert disaster in Ukraine, it’s unlikely his party would be able to translate it into electoral gains.

“It would be a good thing for him and a good thing for the country, but it’s not going to flip the fundamentals,” Fox News contributor Karl Rove explained to Fox News Digital. “The fundamentals are so bad that the effect is not going to flip this thing. People are making a broader and bigger judgment about him.”

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Ukraine military reports 2 soldiers dead in shelling Saturday

Military officials in Ukraine reported two deaths and four injuries in the shelling that occurred Saturday.

“As a result of the shelling, two Ukrainian soldiers received explosive injuries inconsistent with life,” the military command for separatist conflict said. “Four soldiers were injured in varying degrees of severity and are in medical facilities. The United Forces team expresses its sincere and deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims.”

Fox News was not able to independently confirm the deaths.

Russian diplomat says US, UK assessments can’t be trusted because of past intelligence mistakes

Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN on Sunday said that the US and UK’s assessment of an imminent Russian invasion can’t be trusted because the countries’ intelligence agencies have had too many mistakes in the past.

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“We don’t trust the US and British intelligence, they let us down, the whole world, on many occasions enough to remember weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” Dmitry Polyanskiy told Britain’s Sky News.

He also questioned where the Western nations were getting their assessments of the more than 150,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, which he denied, claiming the country is just carrying out routine military drills.

“I don’t think our drills on our territory should worry anyone,” he told Sky, accusing the West of “scaremongering and warmongering.”

He also claimed that an uptick of violence in eastern Ukrainian territory held by Russian-backed separatists is due to the Ukrainian government’s shelling of a “peaceful” population. The West has warned Russia might use “false flag” attacks in the region as a pretense for an invasion.

Polyanskiy said Putin actually wants to meet with Western leaders around the negotiating table to “see what we can do for security and guarantees for Russia’s absolutely legitimate concerns.”

Boris Johnson says Putin may be planning ‘biggest war in Europe’ since WWII

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned this weekend that Russia may be preparing for the “biggest war in Europe since 1945” based on the evidence.

“You’re looking at not just an invasion through the east, through the Donbas, but according to the intelligence that we’re seeing, coming down from the north, down from Belarus and actually encircling Kyiv itself,” Johnson told BBC News at the Munich Security Conference in an interview that aired Sunday morning. “I think people need to understand the sheer cost in human life that could entail.”

Johnson threatened sanctions that he said would hit Russia “very, very hard,” including stopping the country from “trading in pounds and dollars” with the cooperation of the United States.

He also agreed with President Biden’s assessment that an invasion could be imminent.

“I’m afraid that that is what the evidence points to, there’s no burning it,” he told the BBC. “The fact is that all the signs are that the plan has already in some senses begun.”

Biden to meet with National Security Council Sunday

President Biden will meet with the National Security Council on Sunday to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

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On Friday, the president said he was “convinced” by US intelligence that Vladimir Putin had made the decision to invade.

“President Biden continues to monitor the evolving situation in Ukraine, and is being updated regularly about events on the ground by his national security team,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Saturday. “They reaffirmed that Russia could launch an attack against Ukraine at any time.”

Zelenskyy calls for Putin meeting, promises diplomacy for ‘sake of a peaceful settlement’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet with him to discuss a diplomatic solution to mounting tensions in the region amid increasing violence in areas of eastern Ukraine held by Russian-backed separatists.

“I don’t know what the president of the Russian Federation wants, so I am proposing a meeting,” Zelenskyy said at the Munich Security Conference. “Ukraine will continue to follow only the diplomatic path for the sake of a peaceful settlement.”

The Kremlin did not appear to have responded yet.

Sporadic violence has broken out for years along the line separating Ukrainian forces from the Russia-backed rebels, but the recent shelling and bombing spike could set off a full-scale war and US officials have warned Russia might use it as a pretext to invade.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Zelenskyy accuses West of inaction on Russia as tensions mount in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Saturday urged Western leaders to specify what consequences they would impose on Russia if the country invades.

“Action is needed,” he said at the Munich Security Conference, noting that it will be too late after a war starts, according to the Washington Post.

“This is not about war in Ukraine, this is about war in Europe,” he said.

Zelenskyy also accused Western leaders of “appeasement,” while arguing they haven’t been forceful enough with President Vladimir Putin.

Vice President Kamala Harris at the conference Saturday morning promised Russia “economic measures that will be swift and severe” if it invaded Ukraine but she didn’t get into specifics.

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