Russia: Ukraine should distance itself from 'extremists'

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov called on Ukraine to distance itself from what he called "extremists" in the east and pursue a course towards peace. He said "tangible progress" had been achieved in implementing measures agreed in Minsk this month and that the ceasefire was being "consolidated".

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Britain 'will not deploy combat troops' in Ukraine

Britain will not deploy combat troops to Ukraine, which is fighting pro-Russian separatists along its eastern flank, Michael Fallon told parliament.

"We are not deploying combat troops to Ukraine and will not do so," Fallon said when asked whether the deployment of military personnel would provoke so-called mission creep.

Michael Fallon. Credit: PA Wire

Britain is preparing to send 75 troops and military staff to help with training and is considering more Ukrainian requests for help, the Defence Secretary added.

Mr Fallon confirmed British personnel will be based around Kiev or in western Ukraine, away from the fighting in eastern Ukraine.


British forces to go on training mission to Ukraine

British military personnel will be deployed to Ukraine in the coming weeks to provide advice and training to government forces in the country, the Prime Minister has revealed.

The announcement came as David Cameron gave evidence to the Commons Liaison Committee on the UK's assistance in the ongoing situation between Ukraine and Russia.

He said the UK had still not reached the stage of providing lethal support, an array of non-lethal assistance had been sent.

Over the course of the next month we are going to be deploying British service personnel to provide advice and a range of training, from tactical intelligence to logistics to medical care, which is something else they have asked for.

We will also be developing an infantry training programme with Ukraine to improve the durability of their forces. This will involve a number of British service personnel, they will be away from the area of conflict but I think this is the sort of thing we should be helping with.

– Prime Minister David Cameron

Cameron: Only a 'miracle' from Russia will see sanctions lifted

Economic sanctions against Russia should be extended and toughened if Russian President Vladimir Putin does not pull back from Ukraine, the Prime Minister has said.

Speaking at a liaison committee meeting, David Cameron said if "miraculously" Russia withdrew its weapons and upheld ceasefires, the sanctions would be lightened - but in the meantime, he said the UK, US and Europe had to take a stand against his actions.

David Cameron made the comments at a liaison committee meeting

Mr Cameron said the sanctions were necessary to protect Moldova and the Baltics from being destabilised next.

He also criticised "serious" violations of British airspace by Russian craft, but said the UK was "more than capable" of defending itself.

I'm sure the Russian's would like us to react in a more volumous way about it.

So far this year the RAF has scrambled the quick reaction aircraft twice, last year it was eight times, if you go back to 2011 it was 10 times, and in 2007 it was 19 occasions.

I think we should be strong, measured and clear, but we should be absolutely confident in our air force, in our Typhoons and the pilots that we have. We are more than capable of protecting our airspace.

– Prime Minister David Cameron

Ukraine crisis: Costs to Russia will get 'even higher'

Russia will face more sanctions if they continue to "destablise" Ukraine, William Hague has said.

William Hague speaking to Andrew Marr. Credit: BBC/The Andrew Marr Show

The former Foreign Secretary told the BBC that Russian President Vladimir Putin is facing a "huge long-term price" for his country's alleged role in supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine.

"The costs to Russia over this behaviour are mounting and will get even higher," he told the BBC.

"If Russia continues to destabilise Ukraine there will be higher sanctions."

Mr Hague said the UK was not planning to send arms to the Ukrainian government following calls from ex-defence secretary Liam Fox.

"We are not planning to send arms to Ukraine - we want to see a diplomatic solution. You have to think very carefully before you send arms into a conflict."

Ukraine crisis: Rebels 'agree weapons withdrawal'

Pro-Russian separatists have agreed to start the withdrawal of heavy weapons in eastern Ukraine, a senior rebel commander has said.

Separatist fighters on top of a tank in Nikishine, south east of Debaltseve. Credit: Reuters

"The plan was signed last night, starting from today there are two weeks to withdraw heavy weapons," Eduard Basurin was quoted as saying by Russian news agency Interfax.

It comes as government forces and separatists exchange dozens of prisoners as part of the internationally brokered ceasefire deal.

Yesterday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the US and Europe were discussing potential further sanctions against Russia after several breaches of the truce were reported.


Ukrainian prisoner swap begins as part of peace deal

Pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian government forces also exchanged bodies. Credit: Reuters/Stringer

Ukrainian military and separatist representatives have exchanged dozens of prisoners at a remote frontline location, kicking off a process intended to usher in peace to the conflict-ridden east.

The prisoner swap saw 139 Ukrainian troops and 52 rebels exchanged at a no man's land location near the village of Zholobok, some 12 miles west of the rebel-held city Luhansk.

A busload of Ukrainian soldiers in military fatigues was transported earlier in the day from the main rebel stronghold of Donetsk to a rural spot some 90 miles to the north-east, before joining up with other groups of fellow captives.

The peace agreement signed last week in Minsk foresees an exchange of all prisoners in the conflict.

It is unclear how many are held in total on both sides, although the Donetsk separatists have said Ukraine is holding about 580 rebels as prisoners.

John Kerry warns Russia of further sanctions after talks

John Kerry delivered the statement after talks in London today Credit: NEIL HALL/WPA Rota/Press Association Images

President Barack Obama will evaluate the next steps in dealing with the conflict in eastern Ukraine in the coming days, including arming Ukrainian forces and sanctions against Moscow, US Secretary of State John Kerry said in talks in London today.

He said in a news conference: "In the next few days I anticipate that President Obama will evaluate the choices that are in front of him and will make his decision as to what the next step will be.

"There are serious discussions taking place between us and our European allies as to what those next sanctions steps are to be and when they ought to be implemented".

US and Europe 'will not play games with Russia'

The US and Europe are not prepared to play games with Russia over the Ukraine crisis, John Kerry has said.

Philip Hammond alongside John Kerry (right) in London. Credit: ITV News

Speaking alongside Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, the US Secretary of State said additional sanctions could be imposed on Russia over its "simply unacceptable" alleged role in supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine.

"Russia has engaged in an absolutely brazen and cyclical process over these last days," he told reporters in London.

"We are talking about additional sanctions, about additional efforts, and I'm confident over the next days people will make it clear that we are not going to play this game and be part of this kind of extraordinarily craven behaviour.

"This is behaviour that is completely counter to everything that the global community has worked to achieve since World War II."

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