Russia sees room for diplomacy

Russia's EU ambassador has told the BBC his country still believes diplomacy can help de-escalate the crisis over Ukraine.

Vladimir Chizhov said Moscow had no intention of invading anybody, but warned it was important not to provoke Russia into changing its mind.

It comes after a flurry of diplomatic activity on Monday and Tuesday.

Russia has repeatedly denied any plans to invade Ukraine.

But with well over 100,000 troops massed near the Ukrainian border, some Western countries including the US have warned that a Russian attack could come at any time.

In 2014 Russia annexed Ukraine's southern Crimea peninsula. Since then there has been a long-running conflict in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists control swathes of territory and at least 14,000 people have been killed.

On Thursday Russia is set to start 10 days of joint military drills in Belarus, Ukraine's northern neighbour and a close ally of Russia. Some 30,000 Russian troops are expected to take part.

A Kremlin spokesman said the joint drills were serious but he pointed out the nature of threats was higher than before.

Mr Chizhov, however, told the BBC that Russian troops currently stationed in Belarus would return to their permanent bases after the exercises.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the drills were "escalatory" amid the high tensions in the region.