After Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia is willing to discuss security concerns with NATO, diplomatic efforts to avoid war gained new momentum this week. Russia also said that it was withdrawing some troops located near Ukraine's borders.
The United States and its allies welcomed the diplomatic gesture, but claim they have not seen any evidence of a Russian military deescalation.
As the West attempts to prevent an invasion, NATO's defense ministers met Wednesday at Brussels. Russia insists that it does not intend to start one.
Here are some examples of what is happening and why.
WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH RUSSIAN TROOPS
A senior Biden administration official stated Wednesday that Russia has increased its presence near the Ukrainian border by as much as 7,000 troops in recent days. This is contrary to Putin's claims. The official, who was not allowed to speak publicly on sensitive operations, spoke to The Associated Press under anonymity. The official didn't provide any evidence.
Russia's Defense Ministry announced that units involved in military exercises would begin returning to their bases. This was welcomed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as a "good signal". Russian Defense Ministry has released footage showing a trainload full of armored vehicles leaving Crimea. Russia took control of Ukraine in 2014.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that the military alliance has not seen any signs of de-escalation in the ground, no withdrawals of troops and equipment.
He stated that Russia has a large invasion force available to attack.
WHAT SAYS RUSSIA?
The Kremlin denies that it plans an invasion. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Western "hysteria... profoundly puzzles" him and accused the West trying to dictate Russia's behavior on its territory.
Vladimir Chizhov (Moscow's Ambassador to the European Union), stated that there won't be any attack on Wednesday. There won't be any escalation next week, nor in the week following, or in this month."
Officials from the West claim that even though an invasion is unlikely, Russia could maintain troops near Ukraine for several weeks. This would make the military buildup into a prolonged crisis that will harm Ukraine's economy.
Russian forces continued their large-scale war games Wednesday in Belarus to the north Ukraine with fighter jets flying training missions, and paratroopers conducting shooting drills.
Although the West is concerned that the exercises might be used to cover an invasion of Ukraine in the future, Vladimir Makei, Belarusian Foreign Minister, stated that all Russian troops and weapons would leave the country following Sunday's maneuvers.
WHAT DOES NATO DO?
NATO member countries' defense ministers met in Brussels to discuss ways to strengthen the deterrence component of their twin-track deterrence strategy and diplomacy strategy.
Stoltenberg stated that NATO would send a clear message to Russia, "conveying a very clear signal to them that we are open to sitting down and discussing with them but at the same time, being prepared for the worst."
He stated that Russia's actions provoked "a crisis of European security" and indicated that Moscow was ready to undermine the stability of the continent by threatening its neighbor.
He said, "I regret to tell you that this is the new norm in Europe."
Stoltenberg stated that NATO had considered setting up new battlegroups across central, eastern, and southeastern Europe. One of these was led by France in Romania. However, no final decision has been made.
NATO has decided to forgo sending troops to Ukraine to fight Russia, as the country is not a member in good standing of the Western alliance. However, hundreds of NATO troops from the United States, Britain, and other countries have been deployed to support the defenses of Eastern European member states. This includes Poland and the Baltic States, which are also afraid they might be Russian targets.
Moscow accuses NATO that it is moving closer to Russia's borders. One of the key demands from Russia is for Ukraine to stop aspiring to join NATO. Allies agree that Ukraine should have the right to make its own decisions.
The latest developments in the crisis will be discussed by leaders of the European Union on Thursday, before the EU-Africa summit. Britain, the United States and the bloc have all threatened severe sanctions against Russia if it invades.
What else is the West Worried About?
The crisis has been called by Western diplomats the greatest challenge to international order since the end the Cold War. Many European governments have been focusing their attention on the future security of their energy supplies as a result.
Russia is accused by Western governments of cutting its natural gas supplies to Europe in order to meet Russia's security needs. This has led to sharply rising energy prices for months.
Europe will be looking for additional gas from other countries, including Japan, in the near future. A switch to climate-friendly, renewable energy may be accelerated by the crisis.
The U.S. Senator Biden is warning about rising gasoline prices if Putin invades. Despite the country's economic growth, inflation has become a problem for Democrats heading into the 2022 midterm election.
As Putin bolstered his forces at the Ukrainian border, the cost of crude oil and gasoline began to rise over the last month. JPMorgan and other investment companies predict that crude oil, currently at $95 per barrel, could rise to $125 per barrel as tight supplies continue to intensify.
John Kerry, the U.S. climate ambassador, will highlight the link between climate efforts as well as global security at the Munich Security Conference (Germany), where he is scheduled for a Friday speech. The security event will also be attended by Antony Blinken, Secretary of State of the United States.
WHAT ABOUT CYBERATTACKS
The cyberattack that took down the websites of the Ukrainian army and defense ministry as well as major banks in Ukraine on Tuesday continued to disrupt the system. Ukrainian officials say they are investigating the origin of the distributed-denial-of-service attacks. Russia denies any involvement.
The U.S. issued an alert that hackers supported by Russia have been trying to obtain classified material from contractors working for the Pentagon.
The warning was issued jointly by the FBI, National Security Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security's Cyber Unit. It stated that hackers have been targeting defense contractors starting at least January 2020, and will continue to do so.
The intrusions allowed the actors to obtain sensitive, unclassified information as well as CDC proprietary and export-controlled technologies. However, U.S. authorities did not identify the victims.
What is the MOOD IN UKRAINE
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, declared Wednesday "day of national unity" and asked citizens to fly the blue-and yellow national flag and sing the national anthem against "hybrid threats." The flag was displayed at a Kyiv sports arena.
"Russia will not leave our side in peace," Yuri Maistrenko (52), a scientist in Kyiv said. It didn't start today, but it could tomorrow, or after a month.
WHAT'S HAPPENING IN RUSSIA
Putin, who had tense talks with Scholz and Macron in Germany in recent days was all smiles Wednesday when he met Jair Bolsonaro, the authoritarian Brazilian president.
Russian lawmakers have asked Putin to recognize the rebel-held regions in eastern Ukraine that Russia has supported in a conflict that has claimed more than 14,000 lives since 2014. Putin indicated that he was not inclined to support the motion. This would effectively end the 2015 peace agreement.
Blinken stated that if Putin approved the appeal, it would be a "gross violation of international law" which would bring about a "quick and firm response" by the U.S. and its allies.
WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF ANOTHER AFIELD?
The crisis is creating ripples in the sky and seas.
Ukraine International Airlines stated that it had sent some of its passenger aircraft to Spain "for safety keeping."
Five planes arrived at Castellon, in eastern Spain. A sixth is expected.
With a smaller fleet, the Ukrainian airline continues to fly to and from Ukraine.
Cockpit union, which represents pilots from Germany, asked that planes avoid flying over "regions tense" in eastern Ukraine.
Two98 people were killed on a Malaysia Airlines flight between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur in 2014 when a missile struck eastern Ukraine, bringing down the Boeing 777.
Three-day Russian naval drill in Arctic began Wednesday and upset Norwegian fishermen. Fishing boats are being warned to avoid a 1,000-kilometer (620 mile) zone north of Norway. This is a situation Sturla Rodd, of the Norwegian Fishing Vessel Owners Association, called "totally untenable."