MOSCOW, JANUAREY 29: Russia on Friday sent its strongest signal so far that it is willing to engage with US security proposals and reiterated that it does not want war over Ukraine.
“If it depends on Russia, then there will be no war. We don’t want wars. But we also won’t allow our interests to be rudely trampled, to be ignored”, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian radio stations in an interview.
Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops near the Ukrainian border as it presses demands for a redrawing of post-Cold War security arrangements in Europe.
The US and its allies have warned President Vladimir Putin that Russia will face swift and tough economic sanctions if he attacks Ukraine.
Lavrov said the west was ignoring Russia’s interests but there was at least “something” in written responses submitted by the US and NATO on Wednesday to Russia’s proposals.
Lavrov said he expected to meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken again in the next couple of weeks. Their last meeting, in Geneva on January 21, produced no breakthrough but both sides agreed to keep talking.
Lavrov said, without giving details, that the US counter-proposals were better than NATO’s. Russia was studying them and Putin would decide how to respond.
The comments were among the most conciliatory that Moscow has made on the Ukraine crisis, which has escalated into one of the tensest East-West standoffs since the Cold War ended three decades ago.
While the US and NATO responses have not been made public, both have stated they are willing to engage with Moscow on a series of topics, including arms control.
The US Ambassador to Moscow, John Sullivan, told reporters that Washington had raised the possibility of “reciprocal transparency measures… including on offensive weapons systems in Ukraine, as well as measures to increase confidence regarding military exercises and manoeuvers in Europe”.
He said the size of Russia’s build-up near Ukraine would allow an invasion with little warning, and urged it to pull back its forces.
“It’s the equivalent of if you and I were having a discussion or a negotiation. If I put a gun on the table and say that I come in peace, that’s threatening”, Sullivan said.
Russia has dismissed calls to withdraw, saying it can deploy troops as it sees fit on its own territory.
Ready to talk: Putin
President Vladimir Putin said on Friday the US and NATO had not addressed Russia’s main security demands in their standoff over Ukraine but that Moscow was ready to keep talking.
Putin offered his first reaction to the US and NATO responses to Russia’s demands in a phone call with French President Macron after weeks of personal public silence on the crisis. (Agencies)