Russia needs US response to security requirements before continuing Ukraine talks, Lavrov said

On Tuesday, Moscow rejected new talks on Ukraine unless the West responds to its demands, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepared to fly to Kiev to show support amid fears of a Russian invasion.

Tens of thousands of Russian troops gather at the border with Ukraine, where Kiev and the West accuse Moscow of preparing a potential military attack on its pro-Western neighbor.

A week of talks in Geneva, Brussels and Vienna last week failed to ease tensions, with Russia insisting that its demands for comprehensive security guarantees – including a permanent ban on Ukraine joining NATO – be taken seriously.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that there will be no further negotiations until the Western world gives the proper answer.

“We are now waiting for a response to these proposals – as we were promised – in order to continue the negotiations,” he said at a joint press conference with visiting German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

“Let’s hope these talks will continue,” Lavrov said.

Washington has directly rejected the demands, which also include restrictions on allied deployments in former Warsaw Pact allies such as Poland and the former Soviet-Baltic states that joined NATO after the Cold War.

The Foreign Ministry announced that Blinken would fly to Ukraine and meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday, to “strengthen US commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Blinken will then go to Berlin on Thursday for four-way talks with Great Britain, France and Germany about the Ukraine crisis, spokesman Ned Price told the Foreign Ministry.

Belarus military exercises The four countries will discuss “joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine, including the readiness of allies and partners to impose massive consequences on Russia and severe economic costs,” Price said in a statement.

Ukraine, the United States and the European Union have all expressed deep concern over Russia’s troop build-up, despite repeated denials by Moscow that an invasion was planned.

Kiev has been at war with pro-Moscow separatists in the eastern part of the country since 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine after demonstrations ousted a Kremlin-affiliated leader.

To increase tensions, Russia and Ukraine’s neighbor Belarus began rapid military exercises on Tuesday.

The Belarussian Ministry of Defense said it was hosting the contingency exercises due to the continued “worsening” of military tensions “including at the western and southern borders of the Republic of Belarus.”

Ukraine borders Belarus to the south and NATO member Poland to the west.

Neither Moscow nor Minsk have revealed the number of troops involved, but a video published by the Belarusian Ministry of Defense showed columns of military vehicles including tanks unloaded from trains covered in snow.

Baerbock came to Moscow fresh from meetings in Kiev and said at the press conference with Lavrov that it was difficult for the Western world to believe Russia’s claims that they had nothing planned.

“In recent weeks, more than 100,000 Russian troops, equipment and tanks have been deployed near Ukraine for no reason. It’s hard not to see it as a threat,” she said.

Warning from Turkey NATO member Turkey also warned Moscow of invading Ukraine on Tuesday, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying he intended to discuss growing tensions with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I do not see Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a realistic option because it is not an ordinary country. Ukraine is a powerful country,” Erdogan told reporters in Albania.

Turkey has supplied combat drones to Ukrainian forces, which has drawn strong criticism from Moscow.

Russian negotiators met separately this month with delegations from the United States, NATO and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, in meetings that yielded no concrete results.

Britain’s Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced in Parliament on Monday that Britain was sending weapons to Ukraine as part of a package that would help Kiev secure its borders.

“Ukraine has every right to defend its borders, and this new aid package strengthens its ability to do so further,” Wallace said.

The types of equipment sent “are not strategic weapons and do not pose a threat to Russia,” he said, describing them as “lightweight, anti-tank, defensive weapon systems”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday described the announcement of the shipments as “extremely dangerous” and “does not help reduce tensions”.

(AFP)

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