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West has not addressed key concerns on Ukraine: Putin

West has not addressed key concerns on Ukraine: Putin

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin said on Friday the United States and Nato had not addressed Russia’s main security demands in their standoff over Ukraine but that Moscow was ready to keep talking.

Putin offered his first reaction to the US and Nato responses to Russia’s demands in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron after weeks of personal public silence on the crisis, in which Russia has massed troops near Ukraine.

The Kremlin quoted Putin as telling Macron he would study the written responses provided by Washington and Nato this week before deciding on further action.

Nato chief sees ‘wide range’ of possible actions by Kremlin

“Attention was drawn to the fact that the US and Nato replies did not take into account Russia’s principal concerns,” the Kremlin said.

It listed those concerns as avoiding Nato expansion, not deploying offensive weapons near Russia’s borders and returning Nato “military capabilities and infrastructure” to how they were before former Warsaw Pact states in eastern Europe joined.

“The key question was ignored — how the United States and its allies intend to follow the principle of security integrity ... that no one should strengthen their security at the expense of another country’s security,” it said.

The United States and its allies have warned Putin that Russia will face tough economic sanctions if he attacks Ukraine.

The measures would build on sanctions imposed since Russia annexed Crimea and backed separatists in east Ukraine in 2014, though there are divisions among Western countries over how to respond as Europe is dependent on Russia for energy supplies.

In Brussels, Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that Russia could conduct a “wide range” of aggressive acts against Ukraine, but he emphasised the window was still open to a peaceful and negotiated resolution.

While the military alliance is still not sure what the Kremlin might do, Stoltenberg told an event hosted by the US think-tank the Atlantic Council that Russia had several options available.

“Cyber (warfare) is one, coup efforts to topple the government in Kiev, sabotage — they have intelligence officers working inside Ukraine as we speak.

So we need to be prepared for a wide range of different forms or aggressive actions by Russia against Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.

But he added he was “reluctant to be going too far into speculating, because the aim now is to try to reduce tensions.... We call on Russia to sit down and engage in talks to prevent these kind of scenarios and to find a political solution”.

The West is on tenterhooks over a mass deployment of over 100,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders, raising fears that Moscow might be planning a further invasion of its neighbour.

Nato has held several meetings on the perceived threat, and has another planned for February 16-17 of allied defence ministers.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2022

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