- An intelligence report warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to invade Ukraine on Wednesday
- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on a call to Russian diplomat Sergei Lavrov to discuss crisis
- This was followed by a called between Biden and Putin, who also spoke to France’s Macron earlier in the day
- Russian military reported it had caught a US submarine near the Pacific Kuril islands during naval drills
- It comes as he launched military drills in Belarus on Saturday, alongside a major sea drill in the Black Sea
- Growing list of countries urge citizens to leave Ukraine, including Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Belgium
- Many embassies in Kiev, including UK and US, will operate skeleton crews as majority of staff told to evacuate
The Russian military said today it caught a US submarine in its far-east waters and drove it out with ‘appropriate means’ after the vessel ignored a Russian request to leave, Interfax news agency has reported.
The encounter came as Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden held a high-stakes phone call, as a tense world watched and worried that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could begin as soon as Wednesday.
Biden warned his Kremlin counterpart that the United States ‘will respond decisively and impose swift and severe costs on Russia’ should it invade Ukraine, but the call brought no major change in the standoff over Russian troops massing near Ukraine, a senior US official said.
According to a readout from the White House, Biden stressed that ‘while the United States remains prepared to engage in diplomacy, in full coordination with our Allies and partners, we are equally prepared for other scenarios.’
Kremlin officials have blasted the US, calling the warnings ‘provocation’, and gave little away after the high-stakes phone call between the two presidents. An aide to the Russian President claimed ‘hysteria has reached its peak’.
Yury Ushakov complained about the US claims of an imminent invasion saying that Americans even released ‘the date of the Russian invasion’.
‘We don’t understand false information about our intentions is passed to the media,’ he told reporters.
He said that Putin once again complained that the West has been arming Ukraine and that Kyiv authorities have been ‘sabotaging’ Western-brokered peace agreements to end a years-long conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Dutch airline KLM announced that it had suspended flights to Ukraine following a ‘red alert’ travel advisory placed on the country.
Citing the Russian defense ministry, Interfax reported that the US submarine was detected near the Pacific Kuril islands as Russia conducted naval exercises with its Pacific Fleet. It was ordered to surface immediately.
It said the order was ignored by the U.S. submarine’s crew, leading the crew of Russia’s Marshal Shaposhnikov frigate to use unspecified ‘corresponding means’ to make the vessel leave.
‘The U.S. submarine … left Russian territorial waters at maximum speed,’ the defense ministry was quoted as saying. The Russian ministry called in the U.S. defense attache after complaining that the submarine had entered its waters, the RIA news agency reported.
‘We are aware of press reporting about an alleged naval incident in the Pacific. We cannot confirm the details of these reports at this time,’ said a Pentagon spokesman.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she spoke to US secretary of state Antony Blinken on Saturday, and shared her ‘acute concerns’ that Russia could launch further military aggression against Ukraine within days.
She tweeted: ‘Spoke to @SecBlinken today about acute concerns that Russia may launch further military aggression against Ukraine in coming days. We agree Russia will face massive consequences for any invasion, including severe sanctions. Russia must deescalate and engage with @NATO proposals.’
Before talking to Mr. Biden, Mr. Putin also spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron via phone call, who met with him in Moscow earlier in the week to try to resolve the biggest security crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War. A Kremlin summary of the call suggested little progress was made towards cooling tensions.
Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded the US share intelligence which suggests Russia is planning to invade his country on Wednesday – as the first British families begin arriving to the UK after being urged to flee the potential future war zone.
The alleged invasion plans, reported by German newspaper Der Spiegel, are said to detail specific routes that might be taken by individual Russian units and were analyzed by the Secret Service, the CIA, and the Pentagon before being handed over to President Joe Biden’s government.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held an emergency call with Russian diplomat Sergei Lavrov to discuss the crisis today after the ‘extremely detailed’ plans stoked fears of war in eastern Europe.
He warned his Russian counterpart that further aggression from Moscow would be met with a ‘resolute, massive and united transatlantic response’.
Mr. Blinken had said earlier today that the crisis had reached a ‘pivotal moment’, adding that there continues to be ‘very troubling signs of Russian escalation’, including new forces arriving close to Ukraine’s borders.
But speaking during a live broadcast this afternoon, Mr. Zelensky told the US: ‘If you have 100 percent-certain information about a Russian invasion of Ukraine, please share it with us’. He added that he realized ‘such risks do exist and that his country remains ready to take any measure necessary and ‘from any border.’
Amid the escalating tensions, thousands of British, American, and other European citizens – including many embassy staff – have now been told to get out of Ukraine while they still can, as they were warned there would be no military evacuation in the wake of a Russian attack.
The first haul of visibly relieved British families arrived at UK airports today, including a medical student from Birmingham and a couple with a young daughter, who landed at Gatwick airport.
However, the story of one British father, his Ukrainian wife, and their newborn baby demonstrated the perilous situation many find themselves in as they try and escape Ukraine before the crisis mounts further.
According to The Mirror, Ken Stewart, 54, and his wife Tania, 36, are stranded in Ukraine as their baby Douglas does not yet have a passport. He was born weighing 9lbs by cesarean section, and he and his mother are in a Kyiv hospital. Mr. Stewart, originally from Edinburgh, now faces an anxious wait to see if they can get out in time.