MOSCOW (NWN) – President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Moscow would seek Western guarantees to prevent any further expansion of NATO and the deployment of its weapons near his country’s borders, a strong demand that calls for a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Amidst the apprehension.
Ukrainian and Western officials have expressed concern about Russian military gathering near Ukraine, saying it could signal Moscow’s intention to attack. Russian diplomats contested those claims, expressing concern about Ukraine’s own military build-up near an area of separatist conflict in the country’s eastern side.
Speaking at a Kremlin ceremony, where he received credentials from foreign ambassadors, Putin stressed that Russia would seek “credible and long-term security guarantees”.
Putin said, “In negotiations with the United States and its allies, we will insist on working out specific agreements that will exclude further NATO advances to the east and the deployment of weapons systems that allow us to move closer to Russian territory.” Threatening the surrounding area,” Putin said.
Alleging that “threats are increasing along our western border,” NATO placed its military infrastructure closer to Russia and offered the West to engage in substantial negotiations on the issue, adding that Moscow needed not only verbal Assurance would be required, but also a “legal guarantee”. ,
“We are not seeking any special conditions for ourselves and feel that any agreement should take into account the interests of Russia and all Euro-Atlantic countries,” Putin said. “A calm and stable situation must be ensured for all and is necessary for all without exclusion.”
Putin’s statement comes a day after giving NATO a stern warning against deploying its troops and weapons in Ukraine, saying it represented a red line for Russia and would launch a strong response.
Tensions have been rising in recent weeks about the creation of Russian forces near Ukraine, which worried Ukrainian and Western officials, who saw it as a possible sign of Moscow’s intention to invade its former Soviet neighbour. NATO foreign ministers warned Russia on Tuesday that any attempt to further destabilize Ukraine would be a costly mistake.
The Kremlin insisted it had no such intentions and accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making claims to cover up their alleged offensive designs.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the concentration of Ukrainian troops looked “alarming”, adding that he was going to raise the issue on Thursday during a ministerial meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Stockholm. He again attacked Ukraine for failing to meet its obligations under a 2015 peace deal for the region that was brokered by France and Germany and signed in Minsk, Belarus.
Lavrov remarked in the upper house of Russia’s parliament, “Kiev is becoming reckless in its efforts to provoke the Minsk Agreements, its aggression towards the Russian Federation, and the West to support its military ambitions.”
The US State Department and Russia’s foreign ministry said Blinken and Lavrov would meet on the sidelines of the OSCE meeting on Thursday. A State Department official said Blinken would first meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dimitro Kuleba.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Ukraine has gathered about 125,000 troops – about half the size of its army – near the conflict zone. He also pointed to the increasing number of ceasefire violations in the past.
Amid tensions, Moscow on Wednesday began exercises involving more than 10,000 troops in southwestern Russia. A small exercise also began on the Baltic in Kaliningrad, Russia’s westernmost region, involving 1,000 personnel from armored units.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 after the country’s Kremlin-friendly president was ousted from power by mass protests. Moscow also put its weight behind the separatist insurgency in Ukraine’s eastern industrial region, known as the Donbass. More than 14,000 people have died in the fighting.
Ukraine and the West accused Russia of sending its troops and weapons to support the rebels. Moscow denied this, alleging that the separatists were Russian volunteers.
Addressing parliament on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for talks with Russia to end the conflict in the East.
“We must tell the truth – we will not be able to stop the war without direct talks with Russia,” Zelensky said. “We’re not afraid of direct dialogue.”
The Kremlin responded by reaffirming its long-standing stance that Russia is not a party to the conflict, with the former describing the fighting as a civil war.
“The war in the Donbass is Ukraine’s internal business,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “We know about attempts to put Russia as a party in the conflict, but this is not so. It is possible to end the war in the Donbass only through negotiations between Ukrainians. ”
Peskov said the concentration of Ukrainian forces in the Donbass could trigger an effort by Kiev to regain control of rebel-held territory.
“It concerns us that the inclination to solve the Donbass problem by force may prevail,” he said. “It’s a very dangerous adventure.”
Yuras Karmanau in Kiev, Ukraine, and Alain Nickmeyer in Washington contributed.