The latest on the Ukraine-Russia border crisis

By Tara John, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Aditi Sangal, Maureen Chowdhury, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 1209 GMT (2009 HKT) February 15, 2022
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5:18 a.m. ET, February 14, 2022

Ukraine's ambassador to UK clarifies remarks on NATO

From CNN's Matthew Chance, Katya Krebs and Tim Lister in Kyiv

Vadym Prystaiko, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United Kingdom, has clarified remarks made Sunday when he suggested that Ukraine might consider not seeking to join NATO in an effort to prevent war with Russia.

Prystaiko told the BBC in an interview Monday: "We are not a member of NATO right now and to avoid war we are ready for many concessions and that's what we're doing in our conversations with Russians. But it has nothing to do with NATO, which is enshrined in the [Ukrainian] constitution."

In an earlier BBC interview, Prystaiko said: “What I’m saying here is that we are flexible, trying to find the best, best way out. If we have to go from, sort of some serious, I don’t know, some serious concessions, that’s something we might do. That’s, that’s for sure."

This comes as Russia argues that NATO support for Ukraine -- including increased weapons supplies and military training -- constitutes a growing threat on Russia's western flank.

Asked by CNN for comment on the ambassador's statements, a Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the ambassador's words were "taken out of context."

The words of Ukraine's Ambassador to the United Kingdom Vadym Prystaiko that Ukraine is allegedly ready to consider giving up NATO membership in order to prevent a war with Russia have been taken out of context," Oleg Nikolenko told CNN.

"Of course, for the sake of peace and saving the lives of our citizens, Ukraine is ready to enter into any format of dialogue with countries and international organizations," he said.

"At the same time, Ambassador Prystaiko rightly noted in an interview that the prospect of NATO membership is enshrined in the Constitution of Ukraine, but Ukraine is not currently a member of NATO or another security alliance. Therefore, the issue of security guarantees becomes key for our country.

"Undoubtedly, the best such guarantee would be Ukraine's immediate accession to the Alliance. But threats to Ukraine exist here and now, so finding an answer to the question of guarantees becomes a fundamental urgent task. At the same time, no decision can be made contrary to the Constitution of Ukraine."

Britain will support whatever Ukraine decides to do regarding its pursuit of NATO membership, UK Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey told Sky News Monday.

"If Ukraine decides that it is going to offer that it won't become a NATO member, we support that. That's for the Ukrainians to decide," Heappey told Sky News.

"Similarly, if Ukraine wanted to reserve its position and say that in the future it may want to join NATO, we would support that too because that's what sovereignty is and that's what we support," the minister added. 

5:43 a.m. ET, February 14, 2022

Weekend of diplomacy fails to achieve major breakthrough

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz prepares to travel to Kyiv for talks on the Ukraine crisis, in Schönefeld, Brandenburg in Germany on February 14.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz prepares to travel to Kyiv for talks on the Ukraine crisis, in Schönefeld, Brandenburg in Germany on February 14. (Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance/Getty Images)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will make a fresh attempt at deterring Russian President Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine after diplomatic efforts to avert war over the weekend failed to achieve a breakthrough.

Scholz, who will be in Kyiv Monday and Moscow on Tuesday, intends to "proceed with talks about the still very serious situation at the Ukrainian border. In Kyiv, it is important to me to express our continuous solidarity and support to Ukraine," Scholz wrote on Twitter.

“We urgently expect signs of de-escalation from Moscow. Further military aggression would have very serious consequences for Russia. I absolutely agree with our allies on this. We are experiencing a very, very serious threat to peace in Europe.”

This comes after a weekend of diplomacy which saw US President Joe Biden tell his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky that the US would respond "swiftly and decisively" to further Russian aggression against Ukraine, according to a statement from the White House.

Biden spoke to Putin for around an hour on Saturday, but it did little to change Moscow's position. A senior administration official told reporters following the call that the discussion was substantive but the US fears Russia may still launch a military attack anyway.

The call between Biden and Putin came hours after the US moved some of its forces out of Ukraine and ordered the evacuation of most of its embassy staff on Saturday over invasion fears.