Russia holds drills in Belarus as West warns of 'dangerous moment'

Britain said the "most dangerous moment" in the West's standoff with Moscow appeared imminent, as Russia held military exercises in Belarus and the Black Sea following the buildup of its forces near Ukraine.

Ukraine also staged war games and the United States urged Americans in the country to leave immediately due to increased threats of Russian military action.

But leaders on all sides signalled they hoped diplomacy could still prevail in what British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Europe's biggest security crisis for decades.

In a new round of talks, Britain's foreign minister sparred publicly with her Russian counterpart in Moscow, Johnson visited NATO headquarters in Brussels and Germany's leader met his Baltic states counterparts in Berlin, where officials from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France were also holding discussions.

Russia, which has more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine's borders, denies Western accusations it may be planning to invade its former Soviet neighbour, though it says it could take unspecified "military-technical" action unless demands are met.

"I honestly don't think a decision has yet been taken" by Moscow on whether to attack, Johnson told a news conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. "But that doesn't mean that it is impossible that something absolutely disastrous could happen very soon indeed.

"This is probably the most dangerous moment, I would say, in the course of the next few days, in what is the biggest security crisis that Europe has faced for decades."

The way forward was diplomacy, Johnson later told reporters in Poland.

Stoltenberg also said it was a dangerous moment for European security, adding: "The number of Russian forces is going up. The warning time for a possible attack is going down."

In a new point of friction, Ukraine criticised Russian naval exercises that it said were part of a "hybrid war" and had made navigation in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov "virtually impossible".

Nearly nine hours of talks between Ukraine and Russia on Thursday failed to produce a breakthrough on signing a joint document, but both sides agreed to keep talking, the chief of staff to Ukraine's president said after the talks in Berlin.

Russia said the talks with Ukraine, France and Germany on the conflict in eastern Ukraine fell short of any new agreement, and criticised what it called a lack of clarity in the Ukrainian position.

More from International News

  • 99% of missiles and drones fired by Iran shot down, Israel says

    Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel overnight, 99 per cent of which were shot down, the Israeli military said on Sunday, adding that the armed forces remained fully functional and were discussing follow-up options.

  • Indonesian landslides kill at least 14

    At least 14 people have been killed in landslides on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, the country's disaster mitigation agency said on Sunday, with rescue efforts ongoing for those reported missing.

  • Israel says Hamas has rejected hostage, aid proposal

    Hamas has rejected the latest proposal for a deal to return Israeli hostages and Israel will continue to pursue its objectives in Gaza "with full force", Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement on Sunday.

  • Sydney stabbings not a terrorist attack, police say

    The man who fatally stabbed six people in Sydney had mental health issues in the past and there was no indication ideology was a motive in the attack in one of the city's busiest shopping centres, police said on Sunday.

Blogs