Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, foremer German chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin (from left) at a summit on the Ukraine conflict in late 2019. (© picture-alliance/Russian Look/Kremlin Pool)

  Ukraine crisis

  34 Debates

Now that Moscow has effectively declared war on Kyiv, what about the rest of Eastern Europe? Could tanks soon be rolling into Estonia or Poland? Are more attacks in the offing? Commentators discuss what Europe must prepare for.

The Russian military attacked Ukraine in the early hours of this Thursday morning. Missiles hit the capital Kyiv and other cities, while ground troops advanced on several fronts on Ukrainian territory. Putin warned other states not to stand in Russia's way. Europe's press is appalled and demands consequences.

The EU member states have agreed on new sanctions against Russia. The measures, which will take effect as of Wednesday, affect banks, financial markets, trade and individuals. US President Joe Biden has also announced financial sanctions. If Russia further escalates the situation the EU will adopt additional measures, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced. Europe's press is still not satisfied.

The German government has suspended the approval process for the commissioning of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in reaction to Russia's recognition of the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine. Commentators see Berlin's decision as a far-reaching sanction against Moscow. But will it last?

Russia has recognised the territories in Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists - the "people's republics" of Donetsk and Luhansk - as independent states. President Putin signed a decree to that effect on Monday, ordered the deployment of Russian troops to the Donbass regions and delivered a bellicose speech. Europe's media take very different views on what exactly he is trying to achieve.

Russia's latest escalation in the Ukraine conflict has alarmed states in Europe and around the world. At an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, the UK warned of an imminent humanitarian disaster, and Germany announced decisive measures with serious consequences. Europe's press asks key questions about security policy.

Although US President Joe Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin have signalled their willingness to convene for a summit meeting, an escalation still seems likely at present. The US and Nato believe that Russia is ready and determined to attack Ukraine, including Kyiv. Will Moscow succeed in wringing concessions from the West? And what would the consequences be? Europe's press comments.

The Russian Duma has submitted a petition to President Putin calling on him to recognise the independence of the "people's republics" of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine declared by pro-Russian separatists. Russian commentators examine the potential consequences of such a move.

The situation on the Ukrainian border remains tense. Although Russia has announced a partial withdrawal of its troops stationed near Ukraine, US and Nato observers are reporting additional mobilisation. Intensified shelling and gunfire on the front in Donbass is also fuelling fears of an imminent escalation.

With warnings of an imminent invasion of Ukraine growing louder, hopes are high that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will be able to avert a war during his inaugural visit to Kyiv and Moscow. Scholz announced solidarity, financial aid and a potential moratorium on Nato accession at a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday. Then he travelled to Moscow for talks with Putin on Tuesday. Europe's commentators voice hopes and fears.

The US and Ukraine reportedly believe a Russian invasion of Ukraine is imminent. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video: "We are told that February 16 will be the day of the attack." The US has moved its embassy from Kyiv to Lviv as a precaution. Commentators discuss how much of this talk of an invasion is strategy and how effective it can be.

The US is issuing increasingly urgent warnings about an escalation of the situation in Ukraine before the end of the Olympic Games. While Moscow, Washington, Paris, Berlin and Kyiv engaged in intense telephone diplomacy over the weekend, several states called on their citizens to leave the country. Commentators warn against the use of war rhetoric and advise a change of strategy.

Tensions are growing in view of Russia and Belarus's massive joint military drills near the Polish and Ukrainian borders. US President Joe Biden has called on US citizens to leave Ukraine immediately, and Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described this as a "dangerous moment" for Europe. Commentators examine Eastern European perspectives on the situation.

After his visit to Moscow, French President Macron travelled to Kyiv on Tuesday, where his Ukrainian counterpart Zelensky thanked France for its support. Macron stressed the importance of the Minsk Protocol while Zelensky assured him that Ukraine would implement the agreements. But according to commentators the outcome will depend mainly on Washington and Moscow.

In the press conference on Chancellor Scholz's visit to Washington on Monday, US President Biden threatened Russia saying that "there will no longer be a Nord Stream 2" in the event of a Ukraine invasion. The German head of government, on the other hand, did not address the pipeline directly. Berlin should talk turkey, commentators believe.

Russia's President Putin and his French counterpart Macron discussed the Ukraine crisis for six hours during the latter's visit to Moscow on Monday. Although no concrete results were achieved, Putin described the conversation as useful. Macron noted that there was much work to be done but that there were also issues on which the two see eye to eye. Europe's press is unimpressed.

The Spanish newspaper El País has published the responses of Nato and the US to Russia in the negotiations on the Ukraine crisis. Until now only general points of last Wednesday's offer were known. Commentators are particularly concerned about proposals for demilitarisation, which they say will do little to advance the talks.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday. At the same time, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal met with his counterparts Mateusz Morawiecki from Poland and Mark Rutte from the Netherlands. Commentators are divided as to whether this is a forward-looking closing of ranks or just PR.

In the middle of the Ukraine conflict, Hungary's Prime Minister Orbán has visited Putin in Moscow on what he described as a "peace mission". He also wanted to secure additional gas supplies, which the Kremlin boss pledged to give him. Critics have long accused Orbán of relying too much on Russia, for example regarding vaccines. What was behind the visit?

The US has submitted its written response to Russia in the negotiations on the Ukraine conflict: Although Nato's open-door policy is not up for discussion, it is open to talks on arms control in Europe. If Moscow does attack, harsh sanctions will be imposed. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed dissatisfaction wit the response but stressed that his country does not want war. Europe's press predicts a prolonged struggle.

While developments in the Ukraine crisis are posing problems to countries across the EU, they are particularly menacing in Eastern Europe, where states are considering whether to adopt a clearer stance. This is reflected in the commentary columns.

The German navy chief Kay-Achim Schönbach's controversial statements on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict are making waves across Europe. Even after his resignation, Kyiv has warned Berlin against playing down the situation. Europe's press takes different views of Schönbach's assertion that Russia does not intend to invade Ukraine and that it only wants respect.

Last week Russia described the US offer on the Ukraine crisis as unsatisfactory and then deployed more troops to the border area, boosting its capacity for imminent attack. Several Western states had already increased their military presence in Eastern Europe. But commentators do not believe a full-blown war is in the cards, and discuss possibilities for de-escalation.

US President Biden has raised eyebrows with comments on the likelihood of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. "It's one thing if it's a minor incursion", Biden said, but added that an invasion would be a disaster for Russia. Europe's media are outraged by the notion that Nato sanctions are apparently to depend on the scale of any invasion.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured Ukraine of the US's "unwavering support" during his visit to the country and promised an additional 200 million dollars in military aid. He also threatened Moscow with massive consequences in the event of an attack, which the US apparently considers increasingly likely. Commentators mainly see the ball in Kyiv's court now.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock met her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday. On behalf of the EU she warned Russia against invading Ukraine, saying "We have no choice but to defend our common rules, even if it comes at a high economic price." Commentators speculate on what Germany would do if Russia does invade.

Despite intensive diplomatic efforts, the crisis in the Russian-Ukrainian border region continues. Germany's new Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is now making new attempts to defuse the situation with meetings in Kyiv and Moscow. Europe's press makes suggestions and laments the EU's irrelevance.

Former Ukrainian head of state Petro Poroshenko, who is facing trial for high treason, has left the country. The businessman is accused of having financed "terrorist activities" by buying coal worth millions in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine. Commentators criticise both the charges and the escape.

As the year draws to an end, Moscow has once again adopted a harsher tone in the Ukraine conflict. Russian troops remain stationed near the border and President Putin has accused the US of "aggressive" behaviour and threatened to respond "with adequate military-technical measures" if it persists. Commentators analyse the balance of power.

After Nato and the US voiced concerns about a potential Russian winter offensive against Ukraine after a massive deployment of Russian troops, Moscow has reacted by claiming it is Kyiv that is planning an offensive in the Donbass region. Ukraine denies this. Commentators draw comparisons with the past and discuss the West's options.

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a virtual summit on Tuesday to discuss the Ukraine crisis. The US is demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops gathered on the Ukrainian border. The Kremlin is demanding a clear rejection of plans for Kyiv to join Nato. Europe's press sheds light on the precarious situation.

The foreign ministers of the G7 countries and the EU demonstrated unity in the Ukraine crisis at their meetings on Sunday and Monday. There will be "tough diplomatic and economic consequences" if Russian soldiers cross the border into Ukraine, Germany's new Foreign Minister Baerbock warned. Commentators discuss the best approach for the West.

At their last summit of the year, EU leaders have adopted a resolute stance vis-à-vis Russia. An invasion of Ukraine would entail "restrictive measures coordinated with partners," they warned. Exactly what such measures would entail remains unclear. Nevertheless, Europe's press sees the EU on the right track.

In two drafts for treaties with the US and Nato, Russia has outlined the security architecture it envisages for Eastern Europe. It wants Nato membership for former Soviet republics to be taboo and Nato to withdraw all weapons stationed in the region. The US and Ukraine have already rejected the demands. Europe's press debates how seriously they should be taken.