German leader flies to Kyiv to calm ‘critical’ Russia war threat

US President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin had talks Saturday that produced no breakthrough

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz landed in Kyiv on Monday for crisis talks ahead of a dramatic visit to Moscow to head off what Berlin sees as the “very critical” threat of a Russian invasion.

On arrival in Ukraine, the German leader headed directly to see President Volodomyr Zelensky, whose government has demanded an urgent meeting with Russia to explain why it has deployed more than 100,000 soldiers to Ukraine’s borders.

The United States has warned that Russia’s forces are poised to attack Ukraine, and the western allies have prepared what they warn would be a crippling package of economic sanctions in response.

Ukrainians went about their business despite fears that commercial flights in and out of the country would be halted.    

US intelligence officials worry that weeks of crisis talks have given Russia the time to prepare a major offensive — should Putin make the ultimate decision to attack Ukraine.

He was speaking near the frontline separating Kyiv-held territory from that under the control of Moscow-backed insurgents in the separatist east.

Washington reaffirmed its warning on Sunday that Russia was now ready to strike at “any moment”. It said the assault was likely to start with “a significant barrage of missiles and bomb attacks”.

On Sunday, the Ukrainian presidency said Zelensky had also urged Biden to visit Kyiv “in the coming days” to show moral support.

– Tough trip –

But Germany’s close business relations with Moscow and heavy reliance on Russian natural gas imports have been a source of lingering concern for Kyiv’s pro-Western leaders and Biden’s team.

Kyiv is also upset with Berlin for not having joined some of its NATO allies in starting to supply weapons to Ukraine.

Scholz’s visit to Moscow on Tuesday follows tit-for-tat closures of the German-language service of Russia’s RT network and the Moscow bureau of Germany’s Deutsche Welle.

Despite the diplomatic push, a growing number of Western countries are withdrawing staff from their Kyiv embassies and urging their citizens to leave Ukraine immediately.

Dutch carrier KLM became the first major airline over the weekend to suspend flights to Kyiv indefinitely.

Yuriy Fedynskiy, a 46-year-old musician, was heading to the United States with his pregnant wife and four children, leaving behind his village in eastern Ukraine.

“It could happen any second. Will it happen? Only Putin knows. But we are not going to let Putin decide the fate of our family,” he told AFP.

Industry analysts believe other international airlines may soon also ban flights into Ukraine because of the growing cost to insurers.

Originally published as German leader flies to Kyiv to calm ‘critical’ Russia war threat

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