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Nato defence ministers meet as Putin says Russia is open to more Ukraine talks

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B

en Wallace will meet with fellow Nato defence ministers in Brussels on Wednesday as efforts continue to avert a war in Ukraine.

The Defence Secretary will join Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin amid ongoing tensions in eastern Europe as the alliance considers its response to the 130,000 Russian troops massing at Ukraine’s borders.

The meeting comes after President Putin said on Tuesday that Russia did not want another war, and was open to further dialogue with the US and its Nato allies.

In the UK, armed forces minister James Heappey said he was cautiously optimistic about news some troops were withdrawing from the Ukrainian border but added he would “continue to be very vigilant” of Russia’s actions.

The Prime Minister had earlier suggested there were “mixed signals” coming out of Russia about the prospect of an invasion of Ukraine, describing the situation as “not encouraging”.

President Joe Biden, meanwhile, gave a televised address in the United States, in which he said an invasion was still possible and stressed the US would defend all Nato territory.

President Joe Biden speaks about Ukraine in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) / AP

According to reports, US intelligence sources believe an invasion could commence at 3am local time – 1am in the UK – on Wednesday.

Defence minister Mr Heappey welcomed news Russia was withdrawing troops, saying it gave the UK “some real cautious optimism”.

He told Channel 4 News: “If, as a consequence of a combination of things over the last few weeks, the threat of economic sanctions and the impact that that threat is having on the Russian economy, if the cost of military action has started to become clear, then that is a good thing that Russia may be moving in a different direction.”

He added: “But until those are matched by troop movements, people like me need to continue to be very vigilant and be very clear in what we are saying in communicating what we are seeing and the danger that that presents.”

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