Ukraine tensions: Russian demands hark back to Cold War, says Germany

Germany’s foreign minister has accused Russia of putting peace at risk with Cold War-like diplomacy, urging Moscow to take “serious steps towards de-escalation” of the Ukraine crisis.

It comes after the US president warned Russia could be about to stage a justification to invade Ukraine.

Joe Biden said military action could begin imminently but stressed that a diplomatic solution was still possible.

Russia said the claims were “baseless” and accused the US of stoking tensions.

Moscow says it is conducting military drills and says some troops have been moved back to their permanent bases in recent days. Western powers say they have seen no evidence of a withdrawal.

On Friday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock became the latest senior Western politician to voice concerns over Russia’s massive build-up of military personnel and equipment near its border with Ukraine and in Belarus, a Russian ally – effectively encircling Ukraine on three sides.

In a statement released ahead of the annual Munich Security Conference, where world leaders will meet for three days from Friday, she warned Russia was “challenging fundamental principles of the European peace order” with its “unprecedented deployment of troops” and “Cold War demands”.

Her comments refer to a series of demands Russia has made over European security, which seek to limit Western military power in countries Russia sees as within its own sphere of influence.

The West rejects the idea that Russia has a right to influence the foreign policy of countries close to its borders, as the Soviet Union did during the Cold War.

The Cold War was the post-war period of the 20th Century when the rivalry between the West and the Soviet Union brought two global superpowers to the brink of nuclear war.

Ms Baerbock called for diplomacy to continue, saying “even tiny steps towards peace are better than big steps towards war”.