Last-ditch diplomacy led by France’s president to prevent a Russian invasion of Ukraine has at least ensured talks still have a chance even while the military threat looms large.
Western officials, including US President Joe Biden, have said they believe Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade and that it will happen this week, with Kyiv a target.
Yet, Russian troops and tanks have yet openly to cross over Ukraine’s border and Sunday night passed without missiles being launched from the land, air, or sea.
Satellite images reveal new Russia deployments – Ukraine crisis live updates
It is not clear whether this is because diplomatic efforts have delayed invasion plans; whether those plans were not as imminent as the UK and the US had assessed; or whether an attack will yet be unleashed before the end of the month.
Certainly, the decision announced on Sunday to extend large-scale Russian military exercises in Belarus, on Ukraine’s northern border, was a grim signal.
Those are the troops that western officials believe would be used in an assault on the Ukrainian capital.
Other worrying signs include a sustained increase in shelling by Russia-backed separatists in the east of the country over the past few days against Ukrainian government forces.
There has also been a significant spike in disinformation about events in the east, with Russia accusing the Ukrainian government of posing a military threat to civilians in separatist-held areas – a charge that the Ukrainian government denies.
But the allegations could be used by Moscow as a manufactured pretext for an invasion, claiming ethnic Russians in Donbas need protection.
Read more: Russia-Ukraine crisis – How big are their militaries?
Enhancing this narrative has been a seemingly pre-planned “evacuation” of civilians from the area into Russia because of claims that they face a threat from Ukraine’s armed forces.
It is a scenario that western officials have warned for weeks could pre-empt an invasion.
Still, as the US defence secretary underlined at the weekend, as long as a Russian offensive has not started then the chance for a peaceful solution remains.
Lloyd Austin recalled how, as a younger officer in 1994, he had been airborne with a parachute on his back, ready to take part in an assault on Haiti.
Before the aircraft had reached its destination though, it was turned around and the mission was aborted because of a last-minute negotiated resolution.
For the Ukraine crisis, France’s Emmanuel Macron spent Sunday working the phones in different capitals, including Moscow, Washington and London.
He secured a commitment from the White House that Joe Biden was ready in principle to hold a summit with President Putin.
But initial signals from the Kremlin have been not as promising.
Rather than confirm that a summit was on the cards, Moscow said that there were no concrete plans and it emerged that President Putin will address an extraordinary session of his national security council.
At the same time, Russia did say that a meeting at an as-yet-undisclosed location in Europe is still due to take place between the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and his US counterpart Antony Blinken.
It’s a sign that the diplomatic path has not quite yet reached a dead end.