Putin to the West: "It's not us who are threatening anyone"

MOSCOW (AP), -- Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Thursday's West to meet Russia's demand that security measures be taken to prevent NATO's expansion into Ukraine. He said the U.S. was "on the threshold" of his home.

Putin to the West: "It's not us who are threatening anyone"

The Russian leader spoke at a marathon annual news conference and welcomed the U.S.-Russian talks that will begin in Geneva next month. However, he warned that Moscow does not expect the discussions to yield quick results.

Putin stated, "We have made it clear and specific that we do not accept any further NATO expansion to the east."

Moscow last week submitted draft security documents requesting that NATO deny Ukraine membership and reverse its military deployments in Central Europe and Eastern Europe. The alliance's core principle is that any country can apply for membership.

Putin snarled, "Is it us?" Putin said angrily, "No, it is the U.S. that came to our home with missiles. They are already at our home's threshold." Do you think it is excessive demand to not place strike weapons systems close to our home?

Moscow made its request amid rising tensions about a Russian troop buildup in Ukraine, which has stoked fears for an invasion. In a video conference, Joe Biden, the U.S. president warned Putin that Russia would face "severe penalties" if it attacked Ukraine.

Russia denies plans to launch an offensive, but described NATO expansion and weapon deployment in Ukraine as a "redline."

Putin responded to a question Thursday asking if he could give a guarantee that Russia would not invade Ukraine.

He exclaimed, "How would they respond if we placed our missiles on the U.S. border with Canada or Mexico?"

The U.S. and its allies said that they wouldn't offer Russia the guarantee on Ukraine Putin demands. In advance of the Geneva talks, American officials have been meeting with European allies.

During his news conference, the Russian leader claimed that the West had "swindled and blatantly cheated” Moscow. He made verbal promises in the 1990s not expanding NATO's presence east, and then expanded to include former Soviet bloc countries in Central & Eastern Europe and ex-Soviet republics of the Baltics.

He said, "They said that they would not expand, but then they did." "They claimed there would be equal guarantees, but there is not equal security. Sometimes it seems like we live in two worlds.

In 1999, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic joined NATO. They were followed by Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia in 2004, and then Slovenia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the ex-Soviet republics of Estonia and Latvia in 2004. The NATO membership grew to 30 countries with the addition of Albania, Montenegro, Montenegro, and North Macedonia in subsequent years.

Putin stated, "It's never us who threaten anyone." "Is it us that came to the U.S., British borders or elsewhere? They have not come to us. Now they claim that Ukraine will join NATO. They will either put bases there and strike weapons on a bilateral basis.

He claimed that the West was trying to make Ukraine anti-Russian, by brainwashing and constantly supplying it with modern weapons.

Putin stated that Russia cannot continue to live in fear of the looming security threats from Western weapons deployments in Ukraine.

He exclaimed, "Should Russia be constantly looking at what's happening and what new weapons are being put there?" "We must think about how we can ensure our security."

He suggested that Western weapons might encourage the hawkish Ukrainian forces to try to regain control of Russia-backed separatist areas by force, and even to reclaim Crimea which Russia annexed from Ukraine.

According to the Russian leader, Western concerns about the alleged Russian invasion could indicate that Ukraine might launch an offensive against rebels in the east after two failed attempts in the past.

He said, "There is an impression they are preparing another military operation and warning us to not meddle."

Officials from Ukraine have denied that they planned to launch an offensive against separatists. Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesperson for Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, stated Thursday that Putin's claims about Kyiv planning a military operation are false.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss rebutted Putin's remarks by insisting that NATO is a defensive alliance, and Ukraine continues to demonstrate commendable restraint face to Russian aggression and provocation."

Truss stated that Russia's military buildups at the border of Ukraine, and in illegally annexed Crimea were unacceptable. "Any Russian invasion would be a huge strategic error and would be met by strength, including coordinated sanctions with allies to impose severe costs on Russia's economy and interests."

Soon after the Crimea was annexed, Moscow backed a separatist rebellion from Ukraine's eastern side. Over seven years of fighting, more than 14,000 people have been killed and the Donbas, Ukraine's industrial heartland has been destroyed.

Putin's news conference lasted almost four hours and covered a wide range of domestic topics. He rejected criticism that Russia had designated scores of critic media and activists "foreign agents", a label that is meant to diminish the credibility of those who are being designated.

Putin denied that Russian authorities conspired to poison Alexei Navalny with nerve agent last year when he was asked about his political rival.

He promised that all prison officials responsible for torturing Russian prisoners at Russia's penitentiaries will be tried and convicted, but said that similar problems exist in other countries.

Putin, who will attend the Winter Olympics in China next year, also criticised the U.S. boycott of the Beijing Games. He described it as a mistake, and part of Washington's efforts to limit China's growing power.

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