German chancellor travels to Russia and Ukraine as he renews warning to Kremlin

Credit: AP/Press Association Images

The German Chancellor is due to meet the presidents of Ukraine and Russia this week in an effort to help ease mounting tensions, as frantic diplomatic activity aimed at averting a war continue.

Ahead of his first visits to Kyiv on Monday and Moscow on Tuesday, Olaf Scholz renewed his warning to Russia to try and help dissuade the Kremlin from what some officials believe could be an imminent attack.

“It is our job to ensure that we prevent a war in Europe, in that we send a clear message to Russia that any military aggression would have consequences that would be very high for Russia and its prospects, and that we are united with our allies,” he told the German parliament’s upper house.

“But at the same time that also includes using all opportunities for talks and further development.”

Germany is among the more than a dozen countries that have urged their citizens to leave Ukraine amid the threat of conflict.

Russia has massed troops near the Ukraine border and has sent troops to exercises in neighboring Belarus. Credit: AP

Russia has concentrated more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s border and launched a series of military manoeuvres in the region, but says it has no plans to invade.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged calm, saying: "Right now, the people's biggest enemy is panic."

But Moscow wants guarantees from the West that Nato will not allow Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to join as members, and for the alliance to halt weapon deployments to Ukraine and roll back its forces from Eastern Europe.

The US and Nato have flatly rejected these demands.

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Mr Scholz has repeatedly said that Moscow would pay a “high price” in the event of an attack, but his government’s refusal to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine or to spell out which sanctions it would support against Russia have drawn widespread criticism.

But it is clear that the future of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline that seeks to bring Russian natural gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine, is at stake.

US President Joe Biden threatened last week that the pipeline would be blocked in the case of an invasion.

That would hurt Russia economically but also cause supply problems for Germany. Construction of the pipeline has been completed, but it is not yet operating.