Russia-Ukraine Live Updates: Biden Says Troops Will Move to Eastern Europe Soon

Live Updates

President Joe Biden has warned Ukrainian President Vlodomyr Zelensky that an invasion by Russian forces in February is a "distinct possibility" despite ongoing diplomatic talks.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin continues to "study" the U.S. response to Russia's security demands - chiefly the expansion of NATO forces in Eastern Europe and the possibility of membership for Ukraine.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to "study" the U.S. response to his security demands but Kremlin officials claim it is not a "positive reaction" to its main concerns
  • 'Very concerned' Americans struggle to leave Ukraine as Russian forces continue to mass at the border
  • U.S. pledges to declassify recon photos and call out Russian manipulation in Ukraine as a "strategic decision to call out disinformation when we see it"
  • The State Department says Americans should "strongly consider leaving" Ukraine in updated travel advisory
  • U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with European counterparts to discuss meetings and correspondence with Russia.

Biden says troops will soon move to Eastern Europe

President Biden reportedly told White House reporters that the U.S. will be moving troops to Eastern Europe in the NATO countries in the near term.

This comes as tensions between Russia and Ukraine continue to increase.

Zelensky credits president of France for making N4 meeting possible

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted a message thanking the French President Emmanuel Macron for initiating diplomatic discussions with the Normandy group.

Zelensky told Macron that it was his active position that made the N4 advisers' meeting possible.

"As long as conditions are conducive, we must meet and talk," Zelensky said.

Zelensky also believes the ongoing negotiations reduce the chance of escalation.

Poland says tensions are highest in years

Polish President Andrzej Duda says tensions between Russia and Ukraine have reached a level not seen in years.

Duda called the situation "difficult" and reminiscent of 1989 when Moscow-led communist rule collapsed in Central and Eastern Europe, the Associated Press reports.

He emphasized the importance of the "security, sovereignty and freedom" of Poland's neighbors Ukraine and Belarus.

Duda made the comments following a National Security Council Friday. He summoned the meeting days prior to discuss the ongoing situation, saying there is "no direct military threats to Poland right now."

Ukrainian President Vlodomyr Zelensky tweeted a photo with Duda last week, expressing his gratitude for Poland's ongoing support.

"Grateful to Polish people & Andrzej Duda for consistently supporting Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty & Euro-Atlantic integration," Zelensky said.

"Such support is especially important in these hard times. Glad that we are working together to confront the security challenges in the region."

State Dept. met with European allies to discuss Russia

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with European counterparts to discuss meetings and correspondence with Russia.

Sherman and officials from France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom talked about the U.S. and NATO written responses to Russia, the Normandy format meeting held in Paris on January 26, and our ongoing commitment to diplomacy, according to the State Department.

"They agreed on the importance of continued close coordination and unity in the face of Russia's unprovoked military buildup on Ukraine's borders and reaffirmed that any further military incursion into Ukraine will be met with swift, severe, and coordinated consequences," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

U.S. Dept of Defense provides update on a possible invasion

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley held a press briefing at the Pentagon to give an update as tensions between Russia and Ukraine grow concerning.

"We strongly encourage Russia to stand down and to pursue a resolution regarding Ukraine through diplomacy," Gen. Mark Milley told reporters.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III also gave a stark statement about the possible Russian invasion in Ukraine.

"If Russia chooses to invade Ukraine, it will not be cost free in terms of casualties or other significant effects," Austin said.

Putin says West ignored Russian security concerns

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the West ignored Russia's security concerns.

The U.S. and NATO recently rejected the Kremlin's request to halt NATO expansion, stop the deployment of alliance weapons near Russian borders, and rolling back its military forces from Eastern Europe.

"The key question on the United States and its allies' plans to follow the principle of the indivisibility of security was ignored," Putin said in a statement following a call with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Putin said he will study the written responses the U.S. and NATO sent to the Kremlin earlier this week and signaled he is willing to continue diplomatic discussions similar to the recent Normandy four discussions.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia does not want war but will not let its interests be "rudely trampled on and ignored."

"While they say they won't change their positions, we won't change ours," Lavrov told Russian radio stations in a live interview. "I don't see any room for compromise here."

U.S. troops increase readiness, no deployment yet

The U.S. has not yet deployed any troops amid the ongoing crisis, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during Friday's briefing at the Pentagon.

"We haven't actually moved any troops," Austin said. "We put them on higher alert."

Currently, 8,500 U.S. troops, all based domestically, have been put on higher alert for possible deployment to Eastern Europe. The current focus is to increase readiness, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said.

If activated, the troops would reassure NATO allies and/or directly support NATO.

"We certainly have no intent whatsoever, that I'm aware of, of putting offensive forces to attack Russia and I don't think that's NATO's intent at all," Milley said. "This is entirely engineered by Russia."

Zelensky says satellites do not accurately depict Russian troops

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said he knows more about the state of Russia troops at the border than foreign leaders.

He said he feels the conflict on a day-to-day basis, noting that he "sees troops going in an out" in a way other leaders cannot.

"If you look only at the satellites, you will see the increase of troops," he said. "You can't assess whether this is a threat, an attack, or a simple rotation."

There are currently 112,000 Russian troops in or around Ukraine, according to the Ukraine Defense Ministry. The number jumps to 130,000 if naval and air force troops are included. Overall, this is an increase of 20,000 troops from December.

Zelensky said that Russia's military buildup along Ukraine borders is adding "psychological pressure."

While the number of Russian troops deployed to the Ukraine border has increased, Zelensky said "we do not see a bigger escalation than before."

U.S. military leaders 'very concerned' about buildup

Top U.S. military leaders call the crisis with Russia "very concerning," noting the troop buildup "feels different" than any in recent memory.

"It does feel different," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley said during Friday's briefing at the Pentagon.

"This is larger in scale and scope and the massing of forces than anything we have seen in recent memory. I think you'd have to go back quite a while... into the Cold War days to see something of this magnitude."

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin explained the more than 100,000 Russian troops and amount of hardware "far exceeds" typical exercises.

"It's very concerning," Austin added.

Austin and Milley voiced concerns about the "range of options" Russian President Vladimir Putin could still pursue, with hopes Putin will choose a diplomatic solution.

Zelensky blames U.S. for creating panic

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blames the U.S. for creating more panic when it said a Russian invasion was "imminent."

He made the comments during a press conference Friday in Kyiv.

He also criticized global media coverage for misrepresenting the situation and raising "economic panic," inviting journalists to go to Kyiv to get a firsthand look.

"The image that mass media creates is that we have troops on the roads, we have mobilization, people are leaving from places," Zelensky said. "That's not the case, we don't need this panic."

Zelensky also disagreed with the decision by the U.S. and United Kingdom to remove some diplomats and some non-essential staff from their embassies in Kyiv.

"I think it was a mistake. I say this openly."

Zelensky questions NATO sanctions on Russia

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked world leaders for their support during rising tensions with Russia.

He said Ukraine needs $4 or $5 billion to stabilize its economy and said financial contribution from friends and partners of Ukraine is a "signal of trust."

When talking about NATO, Zelensky said it is not solely up to Ukraine whether it joins the alliance or not.

If Ukraine is not part of the NATO, Zelensky would like members countries to help with specific security guarantees and ways to develop Ukraine's army.

"If we are not a part of NATO then we are on our own in terms of protecting ourselves," he said.

He also questioned why sanctions prosed by NATO members would only be applied after Russia attacks Ukraine.

"Why do we need sanctions after the beginning of the war?" he asked.

Zelensky said the sanctions are not designed to help Ukraine, but to stop the full-fledge Russian aggression towards the European Union.

"This cannot be done at the expense of our country," he said. "Why talk about the future [when] we have risks here in the present."

He also asked NATO members to be open about whether Ukraine will ever be a part of the alliance.

Zelensky hopes Biden can hold negotiations with Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke with reporters Friday following the "long" phone call with President Joe Biden.

"We are grateful to the United States for their ongoing support to our sovereignty and territorial integrity," Zelensky said during the press conference.

"But I am the President of Ukraine, "I am based here. I think I know the details deeper than any other President."

Few details were officially released from the Biden-Zelensky call on Thursday as calls grow for a transcript to be released.

Zelensky said he proposes different steps to Biden during each conversation, Thursday's call was the third time the leaders have spoken since December. Zelensky said Biden reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to "nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine."

"I don't want Ukraine to be the result of the agreement between President Biden and President Putin," Zelensky said.

"President Biden doesn't owe anything to Ukraine. I'm not being critical of President Biden, I'm being critical of anyone, and myself as well."

Zelensky believes Biden can help build a platform for negotiations between the U.S., Russia and Ukraine.

"At least this would be part of the process," Zelensky said. "I'm not saying to choose between this and the Normandy format, but we have to knock on all the doors, talk to each other, look for common things, start the dialogue."

"Because when people are talking, there are no places for weapons. That's a good start."

UN security council meeting will be held Monday

With the rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine, an open UN Security Council Meeting will take place Monday, January 31. The meeting will be held to discuss international peace and security.

"This is not a moment to wait and see. The Council's full attention is needed now, and we look forward to direct and purposeful discussion on Monday," said United States Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

Biden, EU discuss steps to secure Europe's energy

President Joe Biden and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reaffirm a shared commitment toward Europe's energy security and ongoing efforts to secure new supply sources, amid concerns of Russia cutting off its gas supply to Europe.

"The United States and the EU are working jointly towards continued, sufficient, and timely supply of natural gas to the EU from diverse sources across the globe to avoid supply shocks, including those that could result from a further Russian invasion of Ukraine," a joint statement reads.

"We also share the objective of ensuring the energy security of Ukraine and the progressive integration of Ukraine with the EU gas and electricity markets."

The U.S. is the largest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the EU, the statement reads, LNG will enhance security of supply in the short-term.

Earlier this week, the U.S. and its European allies announced the ongoing effort to coordinate with major natural gas producers around the world.

Discussions on the topic are set to continue at the U.S.-EU Energy Council on February 7.

NATO chief refuses to comment Russia-China cooperation on Ukraine

During a meeting of the Atlantic Council earlier today, Jens Stoltenberg said he was concerned the two countries are "getting closer and closer" and that neither "share our values".

What we see is that Russia and China are becoming closer and closer, they exercise together, they operate together, they stand together, for instance in the UN Security Council. These are two authoritarian regimes which do not share our values when it comes to democracy, the rule of law, the rules-based international order. Of course that adds to concern.

Asked whether he believes the two nations are working together on a time to invade Ukraine that would avoid any disruption to the Winter Olympics in Beijing next month, he said he "will not speculate".

All I will tell you is that we are prepared for a scenario where Russia invades or a scenario where they actually decide to sit down in good faith and talk with NATO allies.

In pictures: Lithuania ramps up military exercises

Soldiers are taking part in extra wargames and shooting training at the same time as Russian forces do drills with allies in neighboring Belarus.

Photographers were allowed to picture troops from the King Mindaugas Hussar Battalion during training in Silvestras Zukauskas, Lithuania, yesterday.

Lithuanian soldiers in training amid Ukraine tensions
Lithuanian soldiers in training amid Ukraine tensions
Lithuanian soldiers in training amid Ukraine tensions
Lithuanian soldiers in training amid Ukraine tensions
Lithuanian soldiers in training amid Ukraine tensions

Billboards urging civilians to volunteer for military training go up in Ukraine

Ordinary men and women are being asked to join the Territorial Defense Forces (TDF) and receive military training as Russia continues to build up its forces along the Ukrainian border.

The billboards have been largely successful at recruiting civilians to defend their hometowns, with thousands of men and women signing up, reports Yahoo! News.

TDF commander, Brigadier General Yuriy Halushkin, told national press agency Ukrinform that the process was not "unprofessional" and that people must go through a formal process before being able to wear the uniform.

If they wish to serve as part of a battalion or brigade, they come to the commander for an interview before reporting to the recruitment center. Next, they have to pass a physical, their papers get done and then they put on their uniform and serve their country.

He added that the most pressing issue at the moment is ensuring there are enough arms and ammunition - much of which is being supplied by NATO and allied countries - and that all TDF personnel are properly trained.

WATCH: Russia conducts military drills in Belarus

Russian troops are taking part in joint flight and combat exercises with its ally and neighbor - also a former Soviet country - through February as tensions mount on the Ukraine-Russian border.

Belarus also borders the north of Ukraine, but President Alexander Lukashenko said yesterday that Russian forces would be leaving his country once the drills were over - easing anxiety among some that Putin could use Belarus as easy access to Ukrainian capital Kyiv.

Russia's invasion threat 'already affect human rights' - Amnesty International

Amnesty International's Secretary General, Agnès Callamard, claims the human rights of millions of people in Ukraine and beyond are "already" being impacted by the massing of over 100,000 Russian troops at the border.

The consequences of actual military force are likely to be devastating. Ukraine's recent history is punctuated by conflicts involving Russian troops in Donbas and the illegal annexation of Crimea. These episodes have torn communities and lives apart, as military forces have trampled on the rights of civilians with impunity; it's time to break that vicious cycle.

In a statement released earlier, she added that it is "frightening to imagine" the potential scale of a refugee crisis as a result of a war in Ukraine - something which happened during the 2014 conflict.

Xi Jinping 'would not be ecstatic' if Putin invaded Ukraine during Olympics - Deputy SoS

Wendy Sherman suggested at the Yalta European Strategy (YES) forum yesterday that President Xi Jinping would not want Putin to invade while the winter Games is underway in Beijing.

We all are aware that the Beijing Olympics begins on February 4, the opening ceremony, and President Putin expects to be there. I think that probably President Xi Jinping would not be ecstatic if Putin chose that moment to invade Ukraine, so that may affect his timing and his thinking.

Asked what she believes will happen in the coming weeks, Sherman suggested even Putin's close aides "don't know" what his plans are and said she could not read his mind.

Well, I don't know what's in President Putin's mind. There's only one person who knows that, and that's President Putin. I suspect even the people around him don't know what he ultimately will do.

Wendy Sherman talks Russia with NATO allies
US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman addresses a press conference following a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council Getty Images

'We don't want a war': Sergei Lavrov says Russia wants to avoid conflict

The Russian Foreign Minister made the comments following Biden's warning to Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky last night that an invasion was still a "distinct possibility".

There won't be a war as far as it depends on the Russian Federation, we don't want a war. But we won't let our interests be rudely trampled on and ignored.

Lavrov met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Geneva, Switzerland, last Friday, and plans to continue diplomatic talks with NATO countries into February - but allied countries remain wary about what they believe are Russia's true intentions.

Irish leader joins Ukrainians at rally outside parliament

Taoiseach Micheál Martin joined Ukrainians living in Ireland at a rally outside the Irish parliament against a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.

It comes days after he said Russian naval drills off the coast of the island were "not welcome" and changed travel advice to Ukraine, telling people to avoid all non-essential travel to the country.

Netherlands and Ukraine take Russia to court over flight MH17

While much of the focus is on current events on the Ukraine-Russian border, the three countries are now embroiled in a legal battle at The Hague over the passenger jet that was downed over eastern Ukraine in July 2014, killing all 298 people on board.

The Netherlands and Ukraine argued Wednesday that the court should hear their cases that Russia had effective control over rebel forces in eastern Ukraine when the plane was shot down.

Ukrainian Justice Minister Denys Maliuska told the court yesterday that the events in eastern Ukraine and Crimea in 2014 foreshadowed the current crisis, and that his country faces "a consistent or long-term policy of the Russian Federation aimed at bending Ukraine to the Russian interests and swaying it away from its path towards Western values and civilization".

It was confirmed last night that the case will now run amid rising tensions between Russia and the West over tens of thousands of Russian troops massing along the border with Ukraine.

Richard Branson makes unusual intervention in Russia-Ukraine debate

The Virgin business tycoon - currently wrapped up in a space race against Tesla boss Elon Musk and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos - called on businesses across Europe and Russia to "stand up for Ukraine's sovereignty" and said Putin cannot "win in the long run" - despite failing to get his Russian business allies to speak out publicly against the Kremlin.

In a statement released on his website, Branson said he launched an effort eight years ago "to mobilize Russian and Ukrainian business leaders to become advocates of a peaceful resolution between their countries" but that "none of our Russian contacts, while privately opposed to Russia's military intervention, were willing to raise their voice publicly".

We issued a business statement that Western and Ukrainian business leaders were happy to sign, but we failed to get even one Russian signature because their fear of reprisals from the regime in Moscow was just too great.

Despite this, Branson claims both sides are "unified in their view that any war between Russia and Ukraine would have devastating and terrible consequences" and that isolation would "wreck" the Russian economy.

Even if it comes at a price, all of us should send a clear message that unilateral aggression is always unacceptable and that the global business community will support the full range of sanctions against any nation that seeks to violate the sovereignty of another.

Putin's gamble in Europe is 'pushing us in the right direction' - Ukrainian diplomat

Vsevolod Chentsov, Kyiv's representative to the EU, told Newsweek that the threat of a new invasion is uniting Europe behind Ukraine and increasing the level of public support for joining NATO.

He said "unintentionally, the Kremlin is pushing us in the right direction" after a meeting with EU colleagues in Brussels yesterday.

When we are talking about NATO, definitely because of the Russian action and because of the Russian threat, there is more and more support in Ukraine. Russia is definitely cutting our remaining links.

Defense Secretary calls Romanian counterpart to shore up Ukraine support

Lloyd Austin said the U.S. strategic partnership with Romania was "essential to deterring further Russian aggression" in eastern Europe.

Focus turns to 'disinformation' and cyber attacks

NATO allies have refocused efforts on cyber warfare and disinformation in recent days, citing attempts by Russian officials to spread false information.

Common false accusations laid at the door of Western countries include the U.S. and Ukraine being the aggressors in current ongoing tensions - despite Russian forces massing at the border - and that NATO has been plotting against Russia for decades.

Another is that the U.S. is hiding illegal weapons in the Donbas region - a belief commonly held by pro-Russian militants in the area. The rebels maintain control through the Donetsk People's Republic - a self-proclaimed state in south-eastern Ukraine that announced a split from wider Ukraine following the Russian invasion in 2014.

Citing the attempts to mislead people, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. is "much more cognizant of the Russian disinformation machine than we were in 2014" and said the Biden administration will be "very clear with the global community and the U.S. public what they're trying to do and why".

U.S. recommits to 'respond decisively' in latest call with Ukrainian President

The two leaders discussed "possibilities for financial support" from the U.S. to Ukraine last night as the Biden sought to reassure Zelensky about his "support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity".

Nord Stream 2 pipeline to be a target if Russia invades - Germany

The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline would be targeted if Russian decided to invade Ukraine next month, Germany's foreign minister has said, despite it being critical to Germany's long-term economic and environmental plans.

The $11 billion conduit, that would transport gas between Russia and Germany, has been a source of tension between Germany and its allies, with the U.K. saying it wants to "wean" Europe off Russian gas and Ukrainian politicians accusing Germany of betrayal.

German leaders believe, however, that the pipeline could be used as economic leverage over Russia, threatening to withdraw from the project and therefore losing one of its biggest energy customers. Allies, however, do not think it will discourage an invasion of Ukraine.

FULL STORY: Germany, U.S. Threaten To Hit Putin's $11Bn Gas Pipeline If Russia Invades Ukraine

Good morning and welcome to Newsweek's liveblog

The U.S. and Ukraine continue to be in close communication after sending their response to Russian demands for curbs on NATO, with President Biden warning President Zelensky that an invasion in February remains a "distinct possibility".

Follow Newsweek's liveblog throughout Friday for all the latest.