Monday, March 27

West puts up united front against Russia, but urges talks

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MUNICH — Russia must not attempt to move Ukraine’s borders by force, Western leaders warned on Saturday, saying they would be ready to respond even if Russia created a pretext for an invasion by accusing Ukraine of aggression.

US Vice President Kamala Harris said the United States would reinforce NATO’s eastern flank to act as a further deterrent to any Russian military action in addition to the threat of sanctions.

“National borders should not be changed by force,” Harris said at the Munich Security Conference.


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“We have prepared economic measures that will be swift, severe, and united,” she said. “We will target Russia’s financial institutions and key industries.”

Western leaders were meeting in Munich amid reports of explosions just inside Russian territory to Ukraine’s east and in the parts of eastern Ukraine that are controlled by Moscow-backed rebels.

But most also added that diplomacy had not yet run its course.

“History has not yet been written: there is an exit that the Russian government can choose at any time,” said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock after a meeting of Western foreign ministers.

“Our common message to them is very clear: Don’t make this fatal mistake. Withdraw your troops … Let’s talk.”


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But she warned against being misled by misinformation coming from separatist regions , saying Ukraine had done nothing to give the separatist leaders a reason for the evacuations they ordered on Friday.

“We must not allow a casus belli to be created out of hot air,” she told reporters. “Russia has 140,000 soldiers in place along Ukraine’s borders and now they tell us that they feel threatened?”

She said Western countries had agreed tailor-made sanctions packages that were ready to go in the case of various scenarios, including the case of a false flag operation by Russia.


German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to be guided by a particular understanding of history in his approach to Ukraine, but warned that down that path lay endless conflict.


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“Putin has clearly been dabbling lately in Russian history,” Scholz said, pointing to Putin’s published texts lamenting the collapse of the Soviet Union and demise of “historical Russia” as well as his talks with the Russian leader this week.

He also dismissed Putin’s talk of a genocide in east Ukraine as “ridiculous.”

The Russian foreign ministry retorted that Scholz’s remark was “unacceptable,” according to Interfax news agency.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, whose country and Russia are diplomatically aligned, had harsh words for all sides in the dispute, seeing a revived “Cold War mentality” in the confrontation.

He said no country, not even a superpower, should replace international norms with its own will.


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But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson drew a parallel between Russia’s intentions towards Ukraine and China’s towards Taiwan, arguing that Western leaders had a duty to be firm.

“If Ukraine is invaded, the shock will echo around the world. And those echoes will be heard in east Asia and will be heard in Taiwan,” he said, according to a text of his remarks provided by the British government. “People would draw the conclusion that aggression pays, and that might is right.”

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Nandita Bose and Andreas Rinke in Munich; Additional reporting by Robin Emmott and John Chalmers in Brussels, Ryan Woo in Beijing; Thomas Escritt, Kirsti Knolle, Maria Sheahan and Sarah Marsh in Berlin; David Milliken in London; Writing by Thomas Escritt Editing by Alison Williams, Jane Merriman and Helen Popper)



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