MOSCOW ( Associated Press) — Russia on Friday strongly reaffirmed its demand that NATO not expand eastward, despite a military alliance rejecting it amid the build-up of Russian forces near Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that Moscow would not wait indefinitely for a Western response, adding that he expected the US and NATO to respond in writing next week.
Lavrov described Moscow’s demands for a binding guarantee that NATO would not embrace Ukraine or any other ex-Soviet nations, or its military and its forces as necessary to progress diplomatic efforts to reduce rising tensions on Ukraine. Won’t deploy weapons there.
He argued that NATO deployments and exercises near Russia’s borders are a security challenge that must be addressed immediately.
“We have run out of patience,” Lavrov told a news conference. “The West is driven by pride and heightened tension in violation of its obligations and common sense.”
Amid tensions, Ukraine on Friday launched a massive cyberattack that affected the websites of several government agencies.
This week’s talks in Geneva and a related NATO-Russia meeting in Brussels were held amid the build-up of a critical Russian military near Ukraine that the West fears could be a prelude to an invasion.
Russia, which occupied Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014, has denied plans to attack its neighbour, but warned the West that NATO’s expansion into Ukraine and other former Soviet countries is a “red line”. which should not be crossed.
Washington and its allies strongly rejected Moscow’s demand for security guarantees preventing NATO expansion, but further talks on arms control and confidence-building measures aimed at reducing the likelihood of Russia and West hostility agreed to leave the door open.
Lavrov stated that these issues are secondary in relation to Moscow’s main demand for non-expansion of NATO and the deployment of its weapons near Russian territory, emphasizing that the Russian proposals “represent a package, part of the menu”. No.”
“They must understand that the key to everything is the guarantee that NATO will not expand eastwards,” Lavrov said.
He opposed the US and NATO’s argument that Russia does not have veto power to prevent other countries from joining the alliance, pointing to international agreements that the security of some states should not be achieved at the expense of others. needed.
Russia’s top diplomat warned that “if our proposals are rejected … we will make a decision on how to ensure our security in a credible way,” citing President Vladimir Putin’s warning that Moscow was unspecified. military-technical measures” if the West pelts stones at its demands
Lavrov’s deputy, who led the Russian delegation to talks in Geneva, Sergei Ryabkov, said on Thursday that he would likely send Russia’s military assets to Cuba and Venezuela if the US and its allies do not reduce Will “neither confirm nor exclude”. Military activities on the threshold of Russia
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan dismissed statements about possible Russian deployments to Cuba and Venezuela as “stigma in public remarks”.
The talks took place as an estimated 100,000 Russian troops with tanks and other heavy weapons gathered near Ukraine’s eastern border. The US and its allies urged Russia to de-escalate tensions by pulling troops back to their permanent bases, but Moscow rejected the demand, saying it was free to deploy troops on its territory wherever necessary.
Lavrov called the Western demand “absurd”, noting that “while they are demanding that we pull troops back to their barracks on our territory, US and British troops have been stationed in the Baltic.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday that troops deployed in Eastern Siberia and the Far East region have been prepared for movement across the country as part of the SNAP exercise to enable them “to perform their tasks after re-deployment over large distances”. readiness for” to be checked.
The ministry noted that “special attention will be given to the assessment of the country’s transport infrastructure to ensure movement of troops,” adding that the troops will conduct ammunition firing exercises after their redeployment.
Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula after ousting Ukraine’s Moscow-allied leader and in 2014 also threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine. More than 14,000 people have been killed in nearly eight years of fighting between Russian-backed rebels and Ukrainian forces in the country’s industrial region of Donbass.
Ukraine’s military intelligence said on Friday that separatist forces had launched a maneuver that involved shelling with ammunition monitored by Russian military officials.
Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of deploying its troops in the Donbass to support separatists – a charge denied by Moscow.
Yuras Karmanau in Kiev, Ukraine contributed to this report.