Russia, US take strong positions ahead of Ukraine talks – press enterprise

By DASHA LITVINOVA and VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV

MOSCOW (AP) – Moscow and Washington both took uncompromising positions on Tuesday ahead of further talks amid a build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine, with the United States pushing back a demand to stop the expansion of NATO and the Kremlin saying he will quickly see if it is even worth continuing to negotiate.

During Monday’s talks in Geneva, Russia insisted on guarantees preventing NATO expansion in Ukraine and other countries of the former Soviet Union and demanded to roll back alliance deployments military in Eastern Europe. The United States strongly rejected the requests as a non-starter.

The US envoy to NATO set the tone for the next talks with Moscow, ruling out any concessions on the alliance’s expansion eastward. “We will not allow anyone to close NATO’s open door policy,” said US Ambassador Julianne Smith.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the Geneva talks “open, comprehensive and straightforward”, but stressed that Moscow wanted quick results. “We see no significant reason to be optimistic,” he told reporters.

Peskov said Russia-NATO talks in Brussels on Wednesday and an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe meeting in Vienna on Thursday would show whether further negotiations are worthwhile.

“It will become clear in which direction and how to proceed and if that makes sense,” he said. “We absolutely would not agree to drag out this endless process. “

Smith said that “not a single ally within the NATO alliance is ready to budge or negotiate anything regarding NATO’s open door policy.”

“We remain firm in pushing back security proposals which are simply not doomed,” she told reporters. “There is widespread unity and consensus within the alliance on the challenge that lies ahead. “

The United States estimates that Russia has mustered around 100,000 troops near Ukraine, a build-up that has fueled fears of an invasion. Moscow says it has no intention of attacking and rejects Washington’s request to withdraw its forces, saying it has the right to deploy them where needed.

President Vladimir Putin has warned that Moscow will take unspecified “military-technical measures” if the United States and its allies do not meet its demands. He spoke to members of his Security Council, saying he wished to discuss unspecified issues related to security and infrastructure in border areas.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it was “too early to say whether the Russians are serious about the path to diplomacy or not,” or whether they will use the talks as ” a pretext to pretend that diplomacy could not work ”and to move forward with an invasion.

Psaki sidestepped questions of whether the United States agreed the Geneva talks were not a reason to be more optimistic. She noted, however, that they had included discussions on the placement of missiles in Europe and reciprocal limits on military exercises.

“There is a whole series of discussions that can be part of a diplomatic track, but at the end of the day it’s up to the Russians to determine whether they are going to take a serious approach,” she said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who headed the Russian delegation in Geneva, later said it would be difficult to make progress on other issues if the United States and its allies block Moscow’s request. guarantees preventing NATO expansion.

The United States and its allies reject NATO’s request not to admit new members, stressing that a key principle of the alliance is that membership is open to any eligible country and that no foreigners are has the right of veto. But Washington and NATO also say they are ready to discuss arms control, confidence-building measures, greater transparency and risk reduction if Russia takes a constructive stance.

US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said she briefed the North Atlantic Council on her talks in Geneva. “The United States is committed to working closely with our allies and partners to urge de-escalation and respond to the security crisis caused by Russia,” she tweeted.

The United States has warned that Russia would face unprecedented sanctions if it attacks Ukraine.

Amid the tensions, the Russian military said 3,000 soldiers were participating in exercises at shooting ranges in the Voronezh, Belgorod, Bryansk and Smolensk regions, near Ukraine.

In 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula after its friendly leader was ousted from Moscow and supported a separatist insurgency in the east of the country, where more than seven years of fighting left more than 14,000 dead.

A 2015 peace deal brokered by France and Germany helped end large-scale battles, but frequent skirmishes continued and efforts to negotiate a political settlement failed.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday met French and German officials in Kiev on the prospects of another meeting of leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, saying he wanted ” substantive talks on the end of the conflict “.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, saying Kiev and Washington “remain united in the search for de-escalation through diplomacy and force.” .

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Aamer Madhani and Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington and Yuras Karmanau in Kiev, Ukraine, contributed.

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