A young woman holds a weapon during a basic combat training for civilians, organised by the Special Forces Unit Azov, in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Sunday. AP
Amid mounting warnings that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could come any day, the Pentagon said on Sunday that the latest top-level US-Russian contacts did not provide "any cause for optimism."
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby offered a grim assessment of the one-hour phone conversation on Saturday between US President Joe Biden and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
"It's certainly not a sign that things are moving in the right direction. It's certainly not a sign that Mr. Putin has any intention to de-escalate. And it's certainly not a sign that he is recommitting himself to a diplomatic path forward," Kirby told "Fox News Sunday" when asked about the lack of fundamental change after the call. "So, it does not give us any cause for optimism."
US officials in recent days have issued a series of increasingly blunt warnings that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could be imminent, and foreign countries have been rushing to evacuate their nationals.
US national security advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN on Sunday that "a major military action could begin by Russia in Ukraine any day now." Sullivan used some of the most specific — and chilling — language yet employed by an American official, warning that an invasion is "likely to begin with a significant barrage of missiles and bomb attacks... so innocent civilians could be killed."
That, he said, would be followed by a ground invasion in which "innocent civilians could get caught in the crossfire." Sullivan said Russia might yet opt for a diplomatic solution, but its forces near Ukraine's borders are "in a position where they could launch a military action very, very rapidly." The growing drumbeat of warnings has infused diplomatic contacts with a sense of intense urgency. Biden was set to speak to President Volodymyr Zelensky "in coming hours," the Ukrainian leader's office said on Sunday.
And German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was preparing to leave for talks in Kyiv and Moscow, vowed "tough" and immediate sanctions by Germany and its Nato and European allies should a Russian attack threaten Ukraine's "territorial integrity and sovereignty." Tensions are now at a "very critical, very dangerous" point, a German government source told reporters.
In London, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace expressed concern that diplomacy was having any effect. "The worrying thing is that despite the massive amount of increased diplomacy, that military build-up has continued," he told the Sunday Times.
"It has not paused, it has continued." Ukraine on Sunday vowed to keep its airspace open and international travellers safe despite Western warnings that Russian troops conducting massive drills near its borders could invade at any point.
The looming threat of the skies over Ukraine closing came with a growing number of Western countries winding down their diplomatic operations in Kyiv and urging their citizens to leave immediately. It follows a frantic week of urgent but seemingly futile diplomatic efforts to resolve one of the most explosive standoffs between the West and Russia since the Cold War.
All signs suggest Russia is about to invade: Blinken; Putin and Macron agree on need for a diplomatic solution in eastern Ukraine; Russia plans biggest war in Europe since 1945: British PM Boris Johnson; President Zelensky calls for immediate truce.
US President Joe Biden’s invitation to Vladimir Putin to hold a summit was being hailed in Moscow as a sign that Washington had blinked first in the showdown with Russia over Ukraine. With indications that work was already under way for a potential
"We want good relations...and really don't want to burn bridges," Putin told both houses of parliament. "But if someone mistakes our good intentions for indifference or weakness and intends to burn down these bridges, they should know that Russia's response will be swift and harsh."
"We will respond to this measure in a tit-for-tat manner. We will ask ten US diplomats in Russia to leave the country," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters.
He also said that President Vladimir Putin's top foreign policy aide, Yury Ushakov, had recommended that US envoy John Sullivan leave for Washington to conduct "serious consultations."
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia would publish a list of US officials who will be blacklisted. But he said Moscow was "studying" US President Joe Biden's proposal to hold a summit with Putin.
First lady Jill Biden tested positive for COVID-19 and was experiencing "mild symptoms,” the White House announced on Tuesday. President Joe Biden continues to test negative after recently recovering from the virus but will wear a mask indoors for 10 days as a precaution.
According to the case papers the husband tried to kill his wife but his two children tried to save their mother and one of them called the police.
First accident occurred last Friday on Emirates Road over the Dubai Club Bridge Sharjah-bound when a lorry driver suddenly swerved off the lane and lost control.