- Putin says talks will start in Geneva at the start of the new year
- Moscow wants urgent response on security guarantees
- New ceasefire in early hours in eastern Ukraine
- US ready to engage with Russia in early January – US official
MOSCOW, December 23 (Reuters) – Russia wants to avoid conflicts with Ukraine and the West, President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, but needs an “immediate” response from the United States and its allies to their demands for security guarantees.
Ukraine is at the center of rising East-West tensions after the United States and Kiev accused Russia of weighing yet another attack on its southern neighbor, an allegation Moscow denied.
Putin was asked about the risk of conflict with Ukraine during his annual marathon press conference, which lasted more than four hours.
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“It’s not our (preferred) choice, we don’t want it,” he told reporters.
Tensions over Ukraine have pushed Moscow’s relations with the West to their lowest level since the collapse of the Soviet Union some 30 years ago.
The United States, the European Union and the Group of Seven have all warned Putin that he will face “massive consequences,” including severe economic sanctions in the event of further Russian aggression.
Putin said Russia received a generally positive initial response to the security proposals it handed to the United States this month aimed at defusing the crisis and that he was optimistic about the prospect of negotiations, which , according to him, would start at the beginning of next year in Geneva.
But in a separate response, Putin grew heated when he recalled how NATO had “brazenly deceived” Russia with successive waves of expansion since the Cold War, and said Moscow needed an answer. urgently.
“You have to give us guarantees, and immediately – now,” he said.
A Biden administration official on a call with reporters said Washington had taken note of concerns raised by Moscow and was ready to engage with Russia as early as January, but that a specific date and location had not yet been fixed.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the administration official has repeatedly stated that the United States will not negotiate publicly and will provide its full response to Russian proposals in January.
“I expect that we will have our substantive response in these (January) talks … it is clear that there are things that have been proposed that we will never agree on. I think that the Russians probably know that on some level. I think there are other areas where we can maybe explore what is possible, “the official said.
Russia dismisses Ukrainian and American accusations that it could prepare an invasion of Ukraine as early as next month by tens of thousands of Russian troops deployed close to the border of the country which, like Russia, is a former Soviet republic . Read more
He says he needs commitments from the West – including a pledge not to conduct NATO military activity in Eastern Europe – as his security is threatened by growing ties to the West. Ukraine with the Western Alliance as well as the possibility of NATO missiles being deployed against it on Ukrainian territory. .
“We have just asked the question directly that there should be no more NATO movement towards the east. The ball is in their court, they should answer us with something,” Putin said.
NEW STOP FIRE
Putin accused Ukraine of breaking its commitments under a 2015 agreement to end fighting in its eastern Donbass region between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces, and of refusing to speak to representatives of two breakaway regions there.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry said Kiev, on the contrary, had done “a titanic job” to reach a new ceasefire deal in the east on Wednesday. The Ukrainian army, however, reported that the “armed formations of the Russian Federation” violated the latest truce three times during the day Thursday, including with heavy mortars and grenade launchers.
There were no casualties from these incidents, he said.
Four sources told Reuters that Russian mercenaries have deployed to separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine in recent weeks to bolster defenses against Ukrainian forces. Read more
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, president of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which has a monitoring mission in the conflict zone, called the ceasefire “a small first step. but important towards a de-escalation along the contact line ”.
Administration official Biden also welcomed the move, but called it a “small step.”
Lithuanian defense chief Lt. Gen. Valdemaras Rupsys has warned that the crisis could spread to Belarus.
“It is possible that in the event of an escalation (in Ukraine), or, if we see that Belarus may eventually be occupied (by Russia), additional NATO troops will be deployed in Lithuania.” he said
Lithuanian news site 15min.
Rupsys said Belarusian armed forces no longer operate independently, while the country’s air defense system has been fully integrated with Russia’s, and Belarus may be “fully occupied” in the near future.
Ukraine rejects Putin’s position that Moscow is only a mediator in the conflict, accusing him of directly supporting the separatist side. He has repeatedly offered direct talks with Russia, which Moscow has so far rejected.
Putin has made it clear that he does not view President Volodymr Zelenskiy as a negotiating partner, accusing him of falling under the influence of what he has called radical nationalist forces.
“How do I relate to the current leaders, given what they do? It’s practically impossible,” he said.
Many of Russia’s security proposals, which would require the withdrawal of US and allied forces from Central and Eastern European countries that joined NATO after 1997, are viewed as failures in the West.
But the United States and NATO have said they will discuss the package with Russia early next year, aware that outright rejection could further exacerbate the Ukraine crisis.
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Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin, Olesya Astakhova, Darya Korsunskaya, Anastasia Lyrchikova, Olzhas Auyov, Oksana Kobzeva, Alexander Marrow, Maria Kiselyova, Elena Fabrichnaya, Andrew Osborn, Pavel Polityuk, Humeyra Pamuk, Simon Lewis and Nerijus Adomaitis; Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Giles Elgood and Jonathan Oatis
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