Putin talks to visiting Hungarian PM about Ukraine tensions

MOSCOW (AP), -- Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Hungarian counterpart to discuss tensions in Ukraine. This was a day after sharp accusations were made at the U.N. Security Council by U.S. and Russian diplomats.

Putin talks to visiting Hungarian PM about Ukraine tensions

The Kremlin seeks legally binding assurances from NATO and the U.S. that Ukraine will not join the bloc. NATO weapons deployment near Russian borders will be stopped and forces of the alliance will be pulled back from Eastern Europe.

NATO and the U.S. rejected the demands as non-starters. This is amid concerns that Russia might invade Ukraine. These fears are fueled by the presence of around 100,000 Russian troops close to Ukraine's borders. Talks between Russia, the West and Ukraine have not yielded any progress.

Putin was all eyes as he received Prime Minister Victor Orban at the Kremlin. Orban told the Hungarian leader that he would inform him about the West's talks on Russia's security requirements. Orban, who has established close ties to Putin and put NATO member Hungary in an exceptional position, stressed that no European leader would want to start a war in the region. Since December, Putin has not spoken on the subject.

Washington provided Moscow a written reply to Russia's demands. On Monday, three Biden administration officials stated that the Russian government had sent a written answer to the U.S. proposals. An official from the State Department declined to provide details, saying that it would be "unproductive to negotiate publicly" and that Washington would let Russia discuss the counterproposal.

However, Alexander Grushko, Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, stated Tuesday to Russia's state RIA Novosti that this was "not true."

Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, told reporters there had been "confusion" in Russia and that Russia's response is still being formulated.

RIA Novosty quoted a senior diplomat in Russia's Foreign Ministry who said that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had written letters to Western colleagues, including Antony Blinken (U.S. Secretary-of-State), about the "principle of indivisibility in security" contained in an international document that was signed by all members.

Russia has claimed that NATO's eastward expansion has hurt Russia's security. This is in violation of the principle that one nation's security should not be compromised by another.

Blinken spoke Tuesday by phone with Lavrov and stressed "the U.S. willingness to continue a substantive dialogue with Russia on mutual security issues, bilaterally as well as with Allies and Partners."

Ned Price, spokesperson for the State Department, stated that Blinken "further reiterated America's commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as the rights of all countries to decide their own foreign policies and alliances."

Price stated that Blinken also "exhorted immediate Russian de-escalation" and the withdrawal of all troops and equipment from Ukraine’s borders. He reiterated that any further invasion of Ukraine would result in swift and severe sanctions and urged Russia not to abandon diplomatic efforts.

Russia accused the West "whipping up tensions over Ukraine" and claimed that the U.S. had brought in "pure Nazis". The U.N. Security Council debated the stormy issue of Moscow's troop buildup close to its southern neighbor.

U.S. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield responded that Russia's increasing military force along Ukraine’s borders was "the biggest mobilization" in Europe for decades. She also added that there had been an increase in cyberattacks, and Russian disinformation.

After Moscow failed to block the meeting, the Security Council witnessed a series of heated exchanges that reflected the gap between the nuclear powers. This was the first time that all the protagonists in Ukraine's crisis spoke openly at the Security Council, even though the U.N.’s most powerful body did not take any action.

High-level diplomacy continued Tuesday with Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, arriving in Kyiv to hold talks with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President.

In a gesture of support, Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish Prime Minister, visited Kyiv and promised to deliver more weapons to Ukraine, including portable air defense systems and mortars.

He observed that Russia's neighbor feel "next to the volcano."

Morawiecki criticized Germany's decision to approve the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which would transport Russian natural gas to German consumers without transit countries Ukraine or Poland.

The Polish prime minister stated that it was impossible to show solidarity with Ukraine and simultaneously work to certify Nord Stream 2. Berlin would give Putin a weapon that he could use to blackmail Europe by allowing the pipeline's opening.

Zelenskyy stated that Ukraine would form a new trilateral alliance with Britain, Poland and Poland. This was a sign of strong international support for Ukraine.

On Tuesday, the Ukrainian president signed a decree increasing the army's strength by 100,000 troops. This will bring the total to 350,000 over the next three-years and raise the salaries of the army.

Zelenskyy, who has been trying to calm the nation following fears of an invasion imminent, stated Tuesday that he signed the "decree not out of war."

The president stated, "This decree is to ensure that peace is achieved soon and further down the chain."

The Decree ended conscription as of January 1, 2024 and laid out plans to hire 100,000 troops in the following three years.

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