Foreign Ministers of NATO countries will hold an emergency meeting on January 7, the press service of the alliance reported on Tuesday.
The topic of the talks, which will be held in virtual mode, will be the build-up of the Russian troops near Ukraine and other issues of pan-European security, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said on Twitter.
The consultation will take place a day after the foreign policy adviser to the German Chancellor Jens Plötner and the diplomatic adviser to the President of France Emmanuel Bonne arrive in Moscow on a visit.
They will hold talks with Deputy Head of the Russian Presidential Administration Dmitry Kozak, which should precede consultations on Russia's security guarantees scheduled for January 10-13 (with the United States, NATO and the OSCE). TASS reports, citing its source in in the Kremlin, that the meeting will be held at the invitation of the Russian side.
By mid-December, about 100,000 Russian troops were deployed near the Ukrainian border, including about 50 highly mobile battalion tactical groups, the Financial Times writes, citing sources familiar with Western intelligence data.
According to the estimates, that the number of troops could rise to 175,000 by the end of January, when the ground will freeze and be more suitable for tank movement in the event of a ground invasion.
Two long-time Putin's confidants told the FT that the most likely casus belli would resemble the one that led to the start of the war with Georgia in August 2008. Russia then responded to Tbilisi's attempt to gain control over South Ossetia by sending troops into Georgian territory with air and artillery support, using a blockade from the sea and cyberattacks.
Moscow will present the conflict with Ukraine as an attempt to protect the Russian-speaking population in the Donbas from what it will call "Ukrainian aggression", FT sources said.
The news background for such a development of events is already being prepared. On January 3, the People's Militia of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic announced that on December 27, Ukrainian "nationalist militants" seized a school in the village of Valuske in the Donbas, and are now setting up headquarters there: cars with armed men and artillery reconnaissance equipment are arriving.
The LPR People's Militia said that the forces of the Ukrainian army are moving to the captured school.