The Kremlin stated that President Vladimir Putin had told French President Emmanuel Macron the West has failed Russia's most important conditions, including halting NATO expansion and stopping the deployment of allies weapons near Russian borders. He also suggested that Russia should be reformed its Eastern European forces.
Although the U.S. and NATO officially rejected these demands this week, Washington did outline areas where negotiations are possible, giving hope that there might be a way to prevent war amid the increase in more than 100,000 Russian troops close to Ukraine.
However, U.S. President Joe Biden warned Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday that Russia may take military action against Ukraine in February. Russia repeatedly denies having such plans.
Zelenskyy tried to downplay war fears by saying that investors have been rushing to cash out due to Western concerns about an invasion.
He said that "We don’t need this panic" at a press conference. "It cost Ukrainians dearly."
According to a Kremlin account, Putin said that Moscow would study the U.S. response and NATO's reaction before making its next move. Putin spoke to Macron earlier in the day at a Security Council weekly meeting, stating that it would only address foreign policy issues.
Putin has not made any public comments about the West's response to it, but Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister, stated that there is little chance of reaching an agreement.
In a live interview, Lavrov stated that while they claim they won't alter their positions, they will not change ours. "I don’t see any room to compromise here."
He said, "There won't even be a war in the Russian Federation as long as it depends on them. We don't want to have a war." "But we won’t allow our interests to be rudely trampled upon and ignored."
According to a senior Biden administration official, the U.S. welcomes Lavrov's remarks that Russia doesn't war but must back it up with actions. "We need to see Russia pull some of their troops away from the Ukrainian frontier and take other de-escalatory actions," the official said on condition of anonymity, as he wasn't authorized to speak publicly.
Lavrov stated that the U.S. had suggested that the two sides might discuss limits on the deployment and restrictions of military drills as well as rules to prevent accidents between warships or aircraft. He stated that Russia had suggested these issues many years ago, but Washington and its allies have not taken them up until now.
He welcomed Washington's confidence-building offers, but argued that they were secondary to Russia’s main concerns about NATO. He said that international agreements state that security must not be at the cost of other nations and that he would write to his Western counterparts asking them to clarify that promise.
He said that it would be difficult for them to explain why they aren’t fulfilling the obligations sworn by their leaders to not strengthen their security at cost of others. This was referring to a 1999 document signed at a summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Washington warned Moscow that it could impose severe sanctions on Ukraine if it invades, including sanctions targeting high-ranking Russian officials and economic sectors. When Lavrov was asked about the possibility of sanctions, Lavrov stated that Moscow had warned Washington against their introduction.
While Moscow and Washington are contemplating their next steps, NATO stated it was strengthening its deterrence within the Baltic Sea region and the U.S. placed 8,500 troops on increased alert for possible deployment to Europe.
Russia launched military drills that involved motorized infantry, artillery units, and warplanes in Kaliningrad, on the Baltic Sea. There are also warships and warships in the Black Sea, the Arctic, and motorized infantry in southwestern Russia. Russian troops also traveled to Belarus for joint drills. This raises Western concerns that Moscow might attack Ukraine from the north. The border with Belarus is only 75 km (50 miles) away from the Ukrainian capital.
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Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian President, stated that there would be no war unless Russia or Belarus are attacked and accused West of trying "to drown our Slavic brotherhood by blood."
He said, "Some leaders have gone insane. They think they can win this war." "But there won't be victory. We will all lose."
Despite all the warnings, Ukrainian officials have tried to maintain calm despite the alarming rhetoric.
Zelenskyy stated that the U.S., Britain and Australia made a mistake in withdrawing some of their diplomats from Kyiv.
He said, "Those were redundant steps that didn’t help."
He said that the greatest threat to Ukraine's stability is internal. He also lamented NATO's inability to provide Ukraine with a roadmap for membership. He said that the alliance should clearly state if it does not plan to accept Ukraine, and not make vague promises.
"You openly say that you won't accept us. He said, "Why talk about the future?"
Zelenskyy questioned the U.S. warnings about a Russian attack and insisted that "we aren’t seeing any escalated larger than before." He also claimed that the Russian troop concentration could be part Moscow's attempt to put "psychological pressure" on the world and create panic.
According to the Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Resnikov, 130,000 Russian troops are located near Ukraine. This is similar to Moscow's military buildup in spring last year. Moscow pulled its forces back following massive exercises.
Reznikov stated that "we haven't observed any military actions or events that significantly differ from last spring." The exception being the deployment to Belarus.
Already, conflict rumbles through Ukraine. After the ouster of the Kremlin-friendly president from Kyiv in 2014, Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and supported an insurgency within the country's eastern industrial center. Over 14,000 people have been killed in fighting between Ukrainian forces, Russia-backed rebels, and negotiations for a settlement are still at a standstill.
Putin spoke out in support of the continuation of talks on the stalled peace deal for eastern Ukraine between Russia and Ukraine. The four presidential envoys met Wednesday in Paris, and they agreed to meet again in Berlin in the next two weeks.
According to a French official, the conversation between Putin, Macron was serious and respectful. He also spoke about the necessity of de-escalation.