(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. delivered its response to Russia on the crisis in Ukraine, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying it sets out "a serious diplomatic path forward" even though it rejected some of the Kremlin's key demands.
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The news comes after the U.S. embassy in Kyiv urged American citizens in Ukraine to "consider departing now" as tensions with Russia increase, reaffirming the U.S. government's messaging of the past few weeks.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Kremlin will respond to any "aggressive" action, and an ally of President Vladimir Putin proposed shipping weapons to separatists in eastern Ukraine. Top political advisers from Russia and Ukraine, and their counterparts from Berlin and Paris, held talks in the French capital to seek a peaceful resolution of tensions.
Russia has denied it intends to invade Ukraine, despite massing thousands of troops, tanks and equipment near its neighbor's eastern border. The Kremlin has demanded concessions from NATO, including a guarantee the alliance won't add Ukraine as a member and a rollback of forces from former Soviet states.
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All times CET.
U.S. Delivered Response to Russia (8:20 p.m.)
Blinken said the response to Russian demands delivered in Moscow by U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan on Wednesday shows "we are open to dialogue, we prefer diplomacy. It remains up to Russia to decide how to respond. We are ready either way."
In keeping with past U.S. statements, the document -- which Blinken said the U.S. won't make public -- rejects Russia's demand that NATO close its door to eventual Ukraine membership in the alliance. But Blinken said it offers suggestions in areas of mutual interest, such as arms control talks and greater transparency over troop movements and military exercises.
"We will uphold the principle of NATO's open door," Blinken said, repeating the U.S. and European position that Russia shouldn't get to dictate which nations join the military alliance.
"We also do lay out areas where we believe that together we could actually advance security for everyone, including for Russia," Blinken said.
The top U.S. diplomat said he expects to speak with Lavrov in "coming days."
U.S. Urges Americans to Consider Leaving Now (4:14 p.m.)
"The security situation in Ukraine continues to be unpredictable due to the increased threat of Russian military action and can deteriorate with little notice," the U.S. embassy said on its website.
U.S. citizens were advised to "consider departing now using commercial or other privately available transportation options."
Russia Sanctions Would 'Hurt German Economy' (4 p.m.)
Germany is doing all it can to broker a diplomatic solution to the conflict and Europe's biggest economy would also suffer if Russia were hit with more sanctions, according to Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck.
"If there do end up being sanctions, there's none that wouldn't also end up hitting the German economy," Habeck, a co-leader of the Greens who is also the economy minister, said at a news conference.
Ukraine Requested 2.5 Billion Euros in EU Aid (3:31 p.m.)
Ukraine requested 2.5 billion euros ($2.8 billion) in European Union aid late last year, although the financial needs of the country may have increased due to Russia's military build-up, a senior EU official said.
Russia's military presence along the country's border "already creates problems for Ukraine's economy as capital outflows and more difficulties are seen in access to finance," the European Commission's vice-president, Valdis Dombrovskis, told Bloomberg in an interview. The Commission proposed an emergency package totaling 1.2 billion euros this week while further work continues.
Russia Should 'Send Arms to Separatists' (12:26 p.m.)
In a signal that Russia may escalate tensions, a top official of the ruling United Russia party said the Kremlin should supply "certain kinds of arms" to the separatists in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region to deter any attempt by Kyiv to retake the territories
Citing what he called NATO moves to arm Ukraine and continuing shelling and civilian casualties, Andrey Turchak, who is also first deputy speaker of the upper house of parliament, said Russia must respond by supplying weapons.
"We must stop the Kyiv regime," Turchak, a Putin ally, said. Ukraine has said it has no plans to retake the territories by force.
Ukraine Reiterates Doubts Over Invasion (11:30 a.m.)
While he described Russia's military buildup as a "direct threat" to the country, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba echoed comments from senior officials that a broad military invasion is not imminent.
"At the moment, this number is insufficient for a full-scale offensive against Ukraine along the entire Ukrainian border," Kuleba told reporters in Kyiv.
Italian CEOs Ignore Appeal Not to Meet Putin (11:15 a.m.)
Enel SpA Chief Executive Officer Francesco Starace was among those who participated in a virtual meeting with Putin Wednesday. It was organized by the Italy-Russia Chamber of Commerce and aimed at promoting "further development of commercial, economic and industrial ties."
"I'm very glad to have the chance to meet with you," Putin said in televised comments. "We can say with satisfaction that our countries have managed to maintain cooperation on the economic track at a rather high level," he added.
Lavrov Slams 'Provocative' Military Drills (11 a.m.)
Lavrov told lawmakers in Moscow that the U.S. and Europe are stepping up pressure on Russia, including "provocative" military exercises near its borders and efforts to draw Ukraine into NATO's orbit.
Russia hopes for a "constructive" response from Washington and its allies to its security proposals, but will respond if they pursue their "aggressive policy," Lavrov said.
German Lawmaker Attacks Energy Exemption Push (9:40 a.m.)
A defense policy expert for Germany's main opposition conservatives criticized the government in Berlin for seeking an exemption for the energy sector if there is a move to further sanction Russia.
"If there were sanctions, of course the full energy market would have to be included," Johann Wadephul, a member of the Christian Democratic Union, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. A package of sanctions would have to "include Nord Stream 2 and all other energy connections we do have with Russia," he added.
Bulgarian Troops to Join NATO Exercises (9:45 a.m.)
Bulgaria's Defense Minister Stefan Yanev will push for allowing as many as 1,000 troops as part of joint NATO exercises in the country, widening the alliance's military presence on the European Union's eastern frontier.
"If we accept that we're in a state of crisis, let's seize the opportunities" Yanev said in a televised interview. The exercises will improve the Bulgarian military's capabilities, he said.
Latvian President Accuses Russia of Imperialism (9:30 a.m.)
Russia "is demonstrating its intention to restore the Soviet empire," Latvian President Egils Levits said, citing the 2008 conflict with Georgia and the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
"No matter how hard Russia tries, the wheel of history cannot be turned back," Levits, the head of state in the former Soviet republic, said in a statement.
Russia Buildup at 'Highest Level': Janes (8:45 a.m.)
Russian forces are intensifying their build-up near Ukraine to the "highest level" yet, according to defense-intelligence firm Janes.
Russia has indicated it will move six tank-landing ships, a cruiser and a destroyer into the Mediterranean Sea, from where they can easily sail to the Black Sea, London-based Janes said by email.
A mass deployment of forces is also taking place in Belarus under the guise of exercises, including at least two battalions equipped with ballistic missiles, long-range multiple rocket launchers and a large number of battle tanks, it said.
U.K. Not Ruling Out Sanctions on Putin: Truss (8:20 a.m.)
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the U.K. would consider imposing individual sanctions on Putin if there was a Russian incursion into Ukraine. Asked about the prospect, also raised Tuesday by U.S. President Joe Biden, she told Sky News: "We are not ruling anything out."
"We will be bringing forward new legislation to make our sanctions regime tougher so we are able to target more companies and individuals in Russia," Truss said. "We'll be bringing that forward in the next few days."
Russian Troops Start Exercises Near Ukraine Border (8 a.m.)
Russia said more than 1,000 infantry troops were mobilized in a snap exercise in the southern Rostov region near the border with Ukraine Wednesday, one of a series of maneuvers announced by the military, according to local news reports.
The actions were routine and also included deployment of paratroopers and Su-35 fighters to Belarus for joint maneuvers there. Those operations should not cause any concern, despite the tensions around Ukraine, Interfax cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying last week.
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