Vladimir Putin says Russia will not invade Ukraine but sends warning to West

ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers reports from western Ukraine, where soldiers are already training with weapons from Britain

Russia will not start a war in Ukraine, the country's President Vladimir Putin has said, but warned that the US and Nato have left little room for compromise after ignoring his demands.

Mr Putin told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that the West has not considered Russia’s key conditions of halting further Nato expansion, stopping the deployment of alliance weapons near Russian borders, and rolling back its forces from eastern Europe, the Kremlin said.

However, non-Nato members cannot stop other countries from being admitted to the group.

The US and Nato dismissed Mr Putin's demands this week, although Washington outlined areas where talks are possible, offering hope that there could be a way for war to be avoided.

Currently there are more than 100,000 Russian troops massed near the country's border with Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden warned Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday that there is a “distinct possibility” that Russia could take military action against the former Soviet state in February. Moscow has repeatedly denied having any such plans.

Reports suggest China has asked Mr Putin to delay any action until after the Winter Olympics which run from February 4 to 20.

Mr Zelenskyy sought to play down the war fears, saying western alarm over an imminent invasion has prompted many investors in the country’s financial markets to cash out.

“We don’t need this panic,” he said at a news conference on Friday. “It costs Ukrainians dearly.”

Mr Putin told Mr Macron that Moscow will study the US-Nato response before deciding its next move, according to the Kremlin. Earlier in the day, Mr Putin held a weekly meeting of his Security Council, saying only that it would address foreign policy issues.

He has made no public remarks about the western response, but foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said it leaves little chance for reaching agreement.

Russia has issued two proposals to Nato; a promise that Ukraine will never be allowed to join the alliance and a roll back on deployments of troops and military equipment in eastern Europe, which have been rejected.

As tensions build, Washington warned Moscow of devastating sanctions if it invades Ukraine, including penalties targeting senior Russian officials and key economic sectors, a threat Mr Lavrov said would amount to a complete severing of ties.

US officials said on Thursday that Germany would not allow a newly constructed pipeline - which is meant to bring gas directly from Russia - to begin operations if Russia invades Ukraine.

Sergei Lavrov Credit: Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service/AP

Nato said it was bolstering its deterrence in the Baltic Sea region, and the US has ordered 8,500 troops on higher alert for potential deployment to Europe.

Russian tanks on an exercise in the Rostov region Credit: Russian Defence Ministry Press Service/AP

The Kremlin has launched a series of military drills involving motorised infantry and artillery units in south-western Russia, warplanes in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, and dozens of warships in the Black Sea and the Arctic.

The Russian military has also moved troops to Belarus, which borders Ukraine, for sweeping joint drills, raising western fears that Moscow could stage an attack from the north.

While concerns rise about an invasion, Ukraine is already beset by conflict.

Following the 2014 removal of a Kremlin-friendly president in Kyiv, Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and backed an insurgency in the country’s eastern industrial heartland.

Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels has killed more than 14,000 people, and efforts to reach a settlement have stalled.