Ukraine-Russia Crisis: What to Know About Rising Fear of War

Here's a run-down of international tensions as Russian troops mass on Ukraine's border

(AP Photo/Chris Seward)

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about the escalating crisis over Ukraine for the first time in over a month on Tuesday as a series of high-level talks were underway to avert the threat of war.

The prime ministers of Britain and Poland were in Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and the prime minister of Hungary met with Putin in the Kremlin.

Here are things to know Tuesday about the international tensions surrounding Ukraine, which has an estimated 100,000 Russian troops massed along its borders.

What Does Hungary Want From Russia?

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban lobbied for larger shipments of Russian natural gas during a meeting with Putin. While no formal agreement was reached, Orban’s request underscored the close economic and diplomatic ties that Hungary — a member of both the European Union and NATO — has pursued with Moscow. Those actions have raised eyebrows in some European capitals.

Hungary has avoided taking a definitive stance on the Russian military buildup on Ukraine's borders, but Orban on Tuesday urged a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.

“I viewed my current visit as a peace mission as well,” Orban said. “I was able to tell the president that the European Union is united, and that there is not a single European Union leader who wants a conflict with Russia.”

What Message Did Boris Johnson Bring to Kyiv?

The British prime minister told Zelenskyy the Russian military buildup is “perhaps the biggest demonstration of hostility toward Ukraine in our lifetimes.” Asked if the U.K. was exaggerating the threat from Russia, he said: “That is not the intelligence we are seeing. This is a clear and present danger.”

Johnson said the U.K. has a package of measures including sanctions ready to go “the moment the first Russian toecap crosses further into Ukrainian territory.”

But Johnson said he still believed it was possible that Russia would choose a path of diplomacy. He was scheduled to speak with Putin on Wednesday.

What Does Putin Want?

Putin said the U.S. and its allies have ignored Russia’s top security demands but added that Moscow is still open for more talks with the West on easing soaring tensions over Ukraine.

In his first comments in over a month about the crisis, Putin argued that it’s possible to negotiate an end to the standoff if the concerns of all parties, including Russia’s, are taken into account.

Putin noted that the U.S. and its allies have ignored the Kremlin’s demands for guarantees that NATO won’t expand to Ukraine, won’t deploy weapons near the Russian border and will roll back its forces from Eastern Europe.

Putin spoke after talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban in the Kremlin. He said French President Emmanuel Macron may soon visit Moscow.

How Is Ukraine Shoring Up Its Defenses?

Ukraine has announced a new trilateral political alliance with Britain and Poland and a decree expanding the army by 100,000 troops.

Tuesday's announcements by Zelenskyy came during visits by the British and Polish prime ministers, who promised support for Ukraine.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki promised to deliver more weapons, including portable air defense systems, drones, mortars and ammunition. He noted that Russia’s neighbors feel like they are living “next to a volcano.”

Zelenskyy signed a decree Tuesday expanding the country’s army by 100,000 troops, bringing the total number to 350,000 in the next three years, and raising army wages.

What Are the US and Europe Doing Against Potential Cyberattacks?

A top White House cybersecurity official is in Europe meeting with U.S. allies to help coordinate efforts to defend against and respond to potential cyberattacks launched by Russia against Ukraine and others.

Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technology, is traveling to Brussels and Warsaw during a week-long trip to meet with NATO allies, senior Biden administration officials said Tuesday.

The purpose of the trip is to ensure that the U.S. and its allies are prepared for all cyber-related contingencies if the situation in Ukraine were to escalate, officials said.

Russia has launched significant cyberattacks against Ukraine previously and would almost certainly do so again as part of any operation against its neighbor. Such hostile activity against Ukraine could spread far and wide, as the devastating NotPetya attack did in 2017.

What Would a Ukrainian Resistance Look Like?

The eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv is divided between people who are enthusiastically volunteering to join a civil resistance to a potential Russian invasion and those who just want to live their lives.

Which side wins out in Kharkiv, which is Ukraine's second-largest city and is just 40 kilometers (25 miles) from where Russian troops are massing, could well determine the fate of the country.

A guerrilla war fought by dentists, coaches and housewives defending a hometown with 1,000 basement shelters would be a nightmare for Russian military planners, according to both analysts and U.S. intelligence officials. And that's exactly what many people in Kharkiv — and across Ukraine — say they're planning to do.

“Both our generation and our children are ready to defend themselves. This will not be an easy war,” said Maryna Tseluiko, a 40-year-old baker who signed up as a reservist with her 18-year-old daughter in Kyiv.

Why Does Russia Say It Didn't Send a Response to US?

Russia says the U.S. misinterpreted a request for clarification as its response to an American proposal aimed at de-escalating the Ukraine crisis.

Multiple Biden administration officials said the Russian government had provided a written response, but Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko on Tuesday told Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency this was “not true.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday there has been “confusion” — Russia’s response to the U.S. proposals is still in the works, and what was sent “were other considerations on a somewhat different issue.”

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