Putin demands assurance that NATO will not expand eastward

Moscow — President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday guarantees that Moscow is a strict demand coming in fear of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a western guarantee that will prevent further NATO expansion and weapons deployment near his country’s borders. He said he would ask.

Ukrainian and Western officials said they were concerned about the rallying of Russian troops near Ukraine, which could indicate the intention of an attack on Moscow. Russian diplomats countered these allegations by expressing concern about Ukraine’s own military buildup near separatist conflict areas in the eastern part of the country.

At the Kremlin Ceremony, which received credentials from a foreign ambassador, Putin emphasized that Russia seeks “reliable long-term security.”

“In a dialogue between the United States and its allies, we insist on creating a specific agreement to eliminate the further movement of NATO to the east and the deployment of weapons systems that threaten us in the immediate vicinity of Russian territory. I will do it, “Putin said.

He accused “the threat is rising on our western border,” NATO proposed to bring its military infrastructure closer to Russia and the West to participate in substantive talks on this issue, Moscow verbally. He added that “legal guarantees are also needed” as well as guarantees in Moscow. .. “

“We recognize that we do not require any special terms from ourselves and that any agreement must take into account the interests of Russia and all European Atlantic countries,” Putin said. “We need to ensure a calm and stable situation for everyone, and we need it for everyone without exclusion.”

Putin’s statement said the day after NATO severely warned against deploying troops and weapons in Ukraine, which was a red line for Russia and would provoke a strong reaction.

Tensions were rising over the buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine, and Ukrainian and Western officials believed that Moscow may have indicated its intention to invade the former Soviet neighbors. NATO’s foreign minister warned Russia on Tuesday that attempts to further destabilize Ukraine would be a costly mistake.

The Kremlin argued that there was no such intention and accused Ukraine and its western supporters of concealing their own offensive designs.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the concentration of Ukrainian troops seems to be “warning” and will raise the issue at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s ministerial meeting in Stockholm on Thursday. rice field. He again attacked Ukraine, mediated by France and Germany, for failing to meet its obligations under the 2015 Peace Agreement for the region signed in Minsk, Belarus.

“Kiev is becoming more and more arrogant in attempts to provoke the West to support the Minsk agreement, aggressiveness towards the Russian Federation, and military ambitions,” Lavrov said in a statement in the Senate of the Russian Parliament. rice field.

The US State Department and the Russian Foreign Ministry said Blinken and Lavrov would meet on Thursday as bystanders at the OSCE meeting. State Department officials said Blinken would first meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said Ukraine had gathered about 125,000 troops (about half the size of the army) near the conflict zone. She also pointed to an increase in ceasefire violations in the east.

In tension, Moscow began training on Wednesday involving more than 10,000 troops in southwestern Russia. In Kaliningrad, the westernmost Baltic Sea in Russia, a small exercise with 1,000 armored troops has begun.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 after the country’s Kremlin-friendly president was expelled from power by a massive protest. Moscow also cast its weight behind the rebellion of separatist forces in the eastern industrial center of Ukraine known as Donbas. More than 14,000 people died in battle.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky makes a gesture to address parliamentarians in Kiev, Ukraine, on December 1, 2021. (Efrem Lukatsky / AP Photo)

Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of sending its troops and weapons to support rebels. Moscow denied it and accused the Russians who joined the separatists of being volunteers.

In a speech to parliament on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for negotiations with Russia to end the conflict in the east.

“We have to tell the truth. We cannot stop the war without direct discussions with Russia,” Zelensky said. “We are not afraid of direct dialogue.”

The Kremlin reaffirmed its long-standing stance that Russia was not a party to the conflict and described the fighting in the east as a civil war.

“The War in Donbas is an internal Ukrainian business,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “We know about attempts to cast Russia as a party to the conflict, but it is not. Only Ukrainian talks can end the War in Donbas.”

Peskov said the concentration of Ukrainian troops on Donbas could foretell Kiev’s attempts to regain control of rebel-controlled territories.

“I’m worried that there will be a growing tendency to try to solve the Donbas problem by force,” he said. “It’s a very dangerous adventurous principle.”

Vladimir Isachenkov

Associated Press