Portugal Colonial - Security Council to meet on Ukraine as US warns of Russia sanctions

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Security Council to meet on Ukraine as US warns of Russia sanctions
Security Council to meet on Ukraine as US warns of Russia sanctions

Security Council to meet on Ukraine as US warns of Russia sanctions

The UN Security Council meets Monday to discuss the Ukraine crisis, with Washington vowing to hold Moscow to account as it works with NATO allies to beef up sanctions should Russia invade its neighbor.

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Fears of an imminent incursion have grown in recent days, despite denials from Moscow and pleas from Ukraine's president to avoid stirring "panic" over the massive Russian military build-up on the border.

The United States and Britain on Sunday flagged new and "devastating" economic sanctions against Russia, as Washington and its allies step up efforts to deter any invasion of Ukraine.

With tensions soaring, the United States said it was prepared to push back against any "disinformation" Moscow put forward in what is expected to be one of the most closely watched United Nations sessions in years.

Russia on Monday is likely to try to block the 15-member council from holding its US-requested meeting, "but the Security Council is unified. Our voices are unified in calling for the Russians to explain themselves," Washington's UN envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield told ABC News.

"We're going to go in the room prepared to listen to them, but we're not going to be distracted by their propaganda," she said Sunday. "And we're going to be prepared to respond to any disinformation that they attempt to spread during this meeting."

Amid a flurry of diplomatic contacts, US Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland told CBS a proposal on security issues presented last week by the US and NATO to Russia may have stirred interest in Moscow.

The proposal includes the likelihood of new talks this week between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, meanwhile, took a tough stance, saying it was crucial Washington send a powerful message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that any aggression against Ukraine would come at a very high cost.

"We cannot have a Munich moment again," Senator Bob Menendez said on CNN. "Putin will not stop with Ukraine."

He indicated some penalties could be levied over actions Russia has already taken in Ukraine, including cyberattacks, but there would be "devastating sanctions that ultimately would crush Russia" should Moscow invade.

Nuland said the White House was working closely with the Senate, and that any sanctions measures would be "very well-aligned" with those coming from European allies.

Putin "will feel it acutely," she said.

In London, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Britain would unveil sanctions legislation targeting "a much wider variety" of Russian economic targets.

"There will be nowhere to hide for Putin's oligarchs," Truss told Sky News.

Analysts say an array of sanctions hitting Russian banks and financial institutions would not only affect daily life throughout Russia but could roil major economies in Europe and elsewhere.

- Carrots and sticks -

Western leaders are pursuing a two-pronged approach, stepping up military assistance to Ukraine but also undertaking a full-court diplomatic effort to defuse the crisis.

Britain is preparing to offer NATO a "major" deployment of troops, weapons, warships and jets, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Saturday. At the same time, he is expected to speak with Putin next week.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Sunday welcomed the increased military support while also endorsing London's diplomatic initiative.

Canada on Sunday announced the temporary repatriation of all non-essential employees from its Kyiv embassy. And its defense minister, Anita Anand, said Canadian forces in Ukraine were protectively being moved west of the Dnieper river.

Relations between Russia and the West are at their lowest point since the Cold War.

But Russia has repeatedly denied posing a threat to the one-time Soviet republic and said Sunday it wanted "respectful" relations with the United States.

"We want good, equal, mutually respectful relations with the United States, like with every country in the world," Foreign Minister Lavrov told Russian TV.

Citing NATO's presence near its border, Russia has put forward security demands to Washington and the US-led military alliance.

They include a guarantee that NATO will not admit new members, in particular Ukraine, and that the United States will not establish new military bases in ex-Soviet countries.

- Can't 'afford to panic' -

In the face of the Russian build-up, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on the West to tone down the rhetoric.

That plea, from a country also eager for Western support -- particularly since Moscow seized Crimea in 2014 and began fueling a deadly separatist conflict in the country's east -- has raised eyebrows in Washington.

Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova tried to reassure Americans Sunday, telling CBS that Ukraine was "grateful for the United States," but that after eight years of living with a constant threat from Russia, "we cannot afford to panic."

Kyiv's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged Russia in a tweet to pull back its forces and "continue diplomatic engagement" if it is "serious" about de-escalating tensions.