Ukraine crisis live: confront-off expected at UN security council meeting;…

Ukraine crisis live: confront-off expected at UN security council meeting;…

8.48am EST 08:48

Jennifer Rankin

A group of European parliamentarians have voiced solidarity with Ukraine during a visit to the port city of Mariupol, close to the frontline where Russian-backed separatists keep up territory.

David McAllister, a German centre-right MEP who leads the European parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said the Russian military build-up was “a huge concern for all of us in Europe because the country of Ukraine is closely connected to security all over our continent”.

He additional:

The European Parliament has been very clear in its call on Russia to deescalate the situation. This conflict, this crisis can only be solved by diplomatic method and that is why we call for continued efforts by diplomatic talks in all different formats… The ball is in the Russian court.

He was accompanied by Nathalie Loiseau, an ally of French President Emmanuel Macron, who chairs the parliament’s subcommittee on security and defence.

She said:

We already see Russia trying to destabilise your country by disinformation, cyber attacks and different manipulations. We will stand firm and we will continue to sustain Ukraine because nothing about the future of Ukraine can be decided without the Ukrainians.

The European parliament has no formal foreign policy powers, which tends to make it more assertive than EU member governments. In a resolution adopted last month, MEPs said that sanctions should include cutting Russia from the rapid international payments system, in addition as blocking the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. In contrast, neither the European Council (of EU leaders), nor the EU council of ministers has spelt out the sanctions Russia could confront for invading Ukraine.

The eight-strong delegation of MEPs will be in Kyiv on Tuesday to meet Ukraine’s chief minister Denys Shmyhal, the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, in addition as its committees on foreign affairs, EU integration, security and defence.

8.29am EST 08:29

Dan Sabbagh

The US and the UK, home to leading financial centres, are clearly gearing up to announce a coordinated effort to target members of the Russian elite with economic sanctions if the Kremlin orders an invasion of Ukraine.

The language from today’s US briefing – that economic sanctions will target Russian elite members “in or near the inner circles of the Kremlin” – is almost identical to that used by British foreign secretary Liz Truss on Sunday.

Truss had warned that sanctions could target “oligarchs close to the Kremlin”. However, neither the US nor the UK is however willing to make any names public, conscious of legal and security risks.

American officials referred to a long list of names drawn up under the Trump administration in 2018, which contains 114 senior government figures and a further 96 “oligarchs” as people who could be sanctioned.

7.33am EST 07:33

Boris Johnson to call Vladimir Putin today

British chief Minister Boris Johnson will speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin later on Monday, as London attempts to pressure Moscow over its troop buildup on the border with Ukraine.

“The chief minister is expected to speak to President Putin this afternoon,” Johnson’s spokesman told reporters.

That will be an awkward call. It comes as London is preparing possible sanctions on Putin’s inner course of action.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Liz Truss said legislation to allow Britain to hit edges, energy companies and “oligarchs close to the Kremlin” would be introduced by the government this week.

“The number one thing that will stop Vladimir Putin taking action is if he understands the cost of that action,” Truss told the BBC.

Truss will make a statement to parliament on the Russia sanctions regime later today, and Johnson and Truss will travel to Ukraine on Tuesday.

7.16am EST 07:16

While the west waits anxiously for war, it appears the people of the two countries that would be directly involved in it are less concerned.

In Moscow, as my colleague Andrew Roth has found, US warnings of an imminent attack are not shared.

Roth reports:

As Russia approaches a perhaps already more fateful war, it feels as though the public has barely taken observe, despite the warning signs coming from both sides.

He spoke to Konstantin Danilin, 36, who had brought his two daughters to go tubing at Park Patriot, an entertainment park just outside Moscow. Danilin said talk of war was “hysteria”. “Putin is aggressive: he takes risks, it’s possible he makes mistakes. But this is all just a negotiation.”

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has talked down the threat of war, despite the 100,000 Russian troops gathered on his country’s border.

Moscow moved in additional troops before major diplomatic negotiations, he said, to build diplomatic pressure and get concessions. “It’s psychological. They want to make believe they are there. They are trying to build up psychological pressure.”

However, Zelenskiy has an interest in playing down any perceived threats. Reports of imminent war, he said, were causing panic in the financial sector, and depleting Ukraine’s gold reserves and money.

6.44am EST 06:44

Russia says UK sanctions would be an ‘outright attack on business’

Andrew Roth

The Kremlin has criticised Britain’s announcement of new legislation to target Russian firms and oligarchs in the event of a war in Ukraine as an “outright attack on business” and has threatened to retaliate.

“The statements made in London are very disquieting. I believe they don’t just make us, our companies worry, they also demonstrate a meaningful degree of London’s unpredictability, which is a reason for serious concern from international financial institutions and business entities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a telephone briefing.

Peskov did not specifically respond to threats against wealthy Russians close to Putin. But he did describe the threat of sanctions as illegitimate, saying that they would harm both Russian and British business interests.

“We should call a spade a spade: sanctions are something authentic, formalised by a resolution of the UN security council, while here we are dealing with an outright attack on business,” he said during the call.

Updated at 7.06am EST

6.36am EST 06:36

Russia’s state-owned gas company is politely reminding Europe how its liquid gas reserves are at an “all-time low”.

Gazprom just tweeted that Europe’s underground gas facilities keep up nearly 30% less gas than they did this time last year. They are around 40% complete, it said.

Gazprom (@GazpromEN)

January 31, 2022

The not-so-subtle subtext: don’t rock the boat. Europe is reliant on Russia for energy.

Updated at 7.07am EST

6.24am EST 06:24

Britain has also sought to dissuade Vladimir Putin from military action by signalling its willingness to impose harsh economic sanctions.

On Sunday, foreign secretary Liz Truss said legislation to allow Britain to hit edges, energy companies and “oligarchs close to the Kremlin” will be introduced by the government this week.

“We absolutely need to stop [an invasion from] happening,” Truss told the BBC. “The number one thing that will stop Vladimir Putin taking action is if he understands the cost of that action.”

The British government has been accused of allowing Kremlin-connected money to flow easily by the City of London – which has been nicknamed ‘Londongrad’.

Truss is travelling to Ukraine this week and has plans to travel to Moscow the week after.

6.15am EST 06:15

US has prepared list of Russian elites, families to hit with sanctions

The US and its allies have prepared a list of Russian elites connected to Vladimir Putin’s inner course of action to hit with economic sanctions should Russia move into Ukraine, a senior US administration official has said.

The official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the individuals “play a role in government decision-making or are at a minimum complicit in the Kremlin’s destabilising behaviour”.

The sanctions will also target family members, the official said.

Targeting Russian oligarchs is only one part of a plan by the US and its allies to punish Putin should he set afloat an invasion. Russia denies that it plans to move into Ukraine.

The US official said many of the individuals are particularly unprotected targets because of deepened financial ties with the west.

“Putin’s cronies will no longer be able to use their spouses or other family members as proxies to evade sanctions. Sanctions would cut them off from the international financial system and ensure that they and their family members will no longer able to enjoy the perks of parking their money in the west and attending elite western universities,” the official additional.

On Sunday, a US Senate foreign relations committee said it was on the verge of approving “the mother of all sanctions”.

“Putin will not stop if he believes the west will not respond,” said the panel’s Democratic chair, Bob Menendez of New Jersey. “We saw what he did in 2008 in Georgia, we saw what he did in 2014 in pursuit of Crimea. He will not stop.”

Updated at 6.30am EST

5.50am EST 05:50

Aside from the security council meeting, Joe Biden will great number the Emir of Qatar at the White House today in the hopes that the gas-high Gulf nation might offset an energy crisis if Russia invades Ukraine.

Any Russian invasion into Ukraine would almost surely cause economic sanctions from the US and its European allies. That could rule to oil and gas shortages around the world. There are also concerns Russia will cut supplies to Europe, although Moscow denies this.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani is expected to tell the US president that his country will analyze providing short-term emergency liquid gas to help replace any shortages.

According to the EU’s statistics agency, Eurostat, EU countries draw approximately 40% of their gas imports from Russia. Germany is especially dependent.

As the world’s second-biggest exporter of liquified natural gas – and being a close US ally – Qatar is seen as an option to avoid an energy meltdown.

Updated at 5.55am EST

5.30am EST 05:30

Russia, US, and Ukraine to confront off at UN security council

Oliver Holmes

The United Nations security council is scheduled to meet later today for what is expected to be a testy confrontation between US and Russian diplomats over Moscow’s troop build-up on the Ukraine border.

It will be the first time the global body will discuss recent threats of a Russian invasion, which has left world governments on edge.

Washington called for the meeting last week. US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, has described it in stark terms as a talk on “Russian aggression”.

“We’re going to go into the council prepared to listen to Russia’s security concerns, but we’re not going to be distracted by their propaganda,” she tweeted.

Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyansky has been no less assertive, calling the meeting a “clear PR stunt shameful for the reputation of UN security council”.

Under council rules – and adding to tensions – Ukraine will also speak.

While it is possible Russia might attempt to block the meeting with a vote, it will need sustain from nine of the 15 members.

Good morning readers. Oliver Holmes here. I’ll be your live blogger for what looks to be a lively day of diplomacy.

Updated at 5.37am EST

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