Live Updates: Fears of Imminent Russian Invasion of Ukraine Mount as Diplomacy Stalls

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

MOSCOW — Tensions remained high over the Ukraine crisis a day after President Biden warned President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that the costs of an attack on Ukraine would be severe. Foreign embassies in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv continued to withdraw nonessential staff, nations urged their citizens to leave the country and the Russian military buildup in the region showed no signs of slowing.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine urged calm, and Russia continued to deny that it is planning to invade its neighbor, but weeks of frenzied diplomacy showed little sign of progress.

Still, efforts to defuse the crisis continued, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany planning to travel to Kyiv on Monday, and to Moscow on Tuesday. Mr. Biden and Mr. Zelensky were scheduled to speak Sunday morning.

“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,” Mr. Scholz told the upper house of the Bundestag, Germany’s Parliament, on Friday.

A German official said at a news briefing that Mr. Scholz would be “actively urging for dialogue,” in which concrete steps toward de-escalation would be discussed. The official said that the visit was aimed at gaining “a better understanding of Russia’s goals,” and that Mr. Scholz would be open to initiating a broader discussion about “Russian grievances.”

Many in Ukraine view Germany with skepticism for not providing military weapons to help in its defense as other NATO allies have. Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany complained on Sunday on Twitter about “German hypocrisy,” noting that Berlin sells materials to Russia that can increase weapons production.

Last week, Mr. Scholz traveled to Washington, where he met President Biden in an attempt to shore up the alliance between the United States and Germany, Europe’s most powerful economy. Mr. Biden vowed that Nord Stream 2 — a lucrative gas pipeline project that connects Russia and Germany — would be halted if Moscow invades Ukraine.

Mr. Scholz has not explicitly said the pipeline will be canceled in the event of an invasion, but Mr. Biden said the two countries were crafting their policies “in lock step.”

Mr. Scholz’s Social Democratic Party has historically favored strong ties between Germany and Russia and has struggled to develop a coherent stance in dealing with Mr. Putin. But Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German president — who rose to political prominence as a member of the party — was unequivocal in his criticism of the Russian troop buildup. Re-elected Sunday to a second five-year term, he warned Mr. Putin not to “underestimate the power of democracy” in his acceptance speech.

“We are in the midst of a military conflict, a war in Eastern Europe,” Mr. Steinmeier said. “Russia is responsible for that.”

He appealed directly to Mr. Putin, calling on him to “untie the noose around Ukraine’s neck and join us in finding a way to preserve peace in Europe.”

Ben Wallace, the United Kingdom’s defense secretary, criticized Western efforts at reaching a diplomatic solution with Russia as “appeasement” in an interview with the Sunday Times.

Western officials estimate that Russia has massed more than 130,000 troops on Ukraine’s northern, southern and eastern borders, which Mr. Wallace said was enough to “launch an offensive at any time,” something he said was “highly likely.”

While the menacing military buildup around Ukraine has been roundly criticized by most Western governments, Mr. Putin has found support in some other autocratic leaders.

Brazil’s populist president, Jair Bolsonaro, is expected to arrive in Moscow on Tuesday, the same day as Mr. Scholz, for a meeting with Mr. Putin. The visit is seen as part of Mr. Putin’s effort to shore up his alliances with Latin American countries that have traditionally been close to the United States.

Mr. Bolsonaro, whose approval rating is at a low before Brazil elections this year, said Saturday that he did not intend to raise the issue of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We ask God that peace reign in the world, for the good of all of us,” he said in a radio interview.

Katrin Bennhold contributed reporting from Berlin.

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