Russia warns it will end this week’s crisis talks on Ukraine early and leave Europe facing a ‘worsening security situation’ if the US and NATO do not ‘show flexibility’
- Russian and US diplomats are meeting in Geneva for talks over Ukraine today
- Meetings between Russia and NATO are expected to go ahead later this week
- But Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister warned talks could end as early as today
- Russia wants security guarantees and no US and NATO activity in eastern Europe
- The US meanwhile is concerned that Russia could be set to invade Ukraine
- Diplomats on both sides have expressed doubt that progress will be made
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has said this week’s talks between Russia and the West over escalating tensions in Ukraine could end today if the US and NATO are not willing to show ‘flexibility’.
Ryabkov and his delegation arrived in Geneva earlier this morning under Swiss police escort for face-to-face talks with Wendy Sherman, the US deputy secretary of state.
Today’s diplomacy will be followed by Russia-NATO talks in Brussels on Wednesday, before a meeting in Vienna of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe later this week.
But Ryabkov said he is willing to end the talks on the first day if the US is not willing to make certain concessions, while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday: ‘I don’t think we’re going to see any breakthroughs in the coming week.’
Nearly 100,000 Russian troops are gathered within reach of the border with Ukraine in preparation for what Washington and Kyiv say could be a new invasion, eight years after the annexation of Crimea.
Russia however has denied a planned invasion and said the military buildup comes as a response to ‘aggressive behavior’ from NATO, and fears the alliance would increase their military presence close to Russian borders should Ukraine be granted membership.
Meanwhile, residents in Ukraine have questioned why international negotiations over the fate of the country are being held without any representation for the Ukrainian government.
Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov, right, stands alongside US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman at the United States Mission in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Jan. 10, 2022
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and head of delegation Sergei Ryabkov (pictured 2019) has said talks with the US could end on the first day if the US and NATO are unwilling to be flexible
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman (pictured August 2021) meets with Ryabkov and the Russian delegation to discuss escalating tensions in Ukraine
The amassing of Russian troops and equipment near Ukraine’s border has caused worries in Kyiv and in the West that Moscow could be planning to launch an invasion. Russia, the United States and its NATO allies are meeting this week for negotiations focused on Moscow’s demand for Western security guarantees and Western concerns about a recent buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine (Russian military exercises pictured in September 2021)
Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, the military reserve of the Ukrainian Armes Forces, take part in a military exercise near Kiev on December 25, 2021, amid rising tensions along the border with Russia
This photo taken from video distributed by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service shows Russian military vehicles move during drills in Crimea, April 22, 2021
The amassing of Russian troops and equipment near Ukraine’s border has caused worries in Kyiv and in the West that Moscow could be planning to launch an invasion.
Russia is believed to have roughly 100,000 troops stationed close to the Ukrainian border, and in the run up to Christmas engaged in large-scale military drills and war games in the Black Sea, Crimea and close to eastern Europe.
US President Joe Biden twice discussed the Russian troop buildup with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month, warning that Moscow would face ‘severe consequences,’ including unprecedented economic and financial sanctions, if it attacked its neighbour.
Sherman said ‘the US will listen to Russia’s concerns and share our own’, but Blinken was doubtful that the week’s diplomacy would yield any progress.
‘I don’t think we’re going to see any breakthroughs in the coming week,’ Blinken said yesterday.
‘To make accurate progress, it’s very hard to see that happening when there’s an ongoing escalation — when Russia has a gun to the head of Ukraine with 100,000 troops near its borders, the possibility of doubling that on very short order,’ he told This Week ABC.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO and the alliance deploying weapons there as a ‘red line’ for Moscow, and said that Russia’s military presence close to the Ukrainian border is simply for security reasons.
The Kremlin demanded that Washington and its allies make a binding pledge excluding NATO’s expansion to Ukraine, Georgia or any other ex-Soviet nations, and expects Western nations to make a commitment not to deploy weapons or conduct any military activities in ex-Soviet nations.
A draft security blueprint presented by Russia stipulates that NATO must not station any troops in areas where they weren’t present in 1997 – before the alliance moved to incorporate former Soviet bloc countries and ex-Soviet republics.
‘We need legal guarantees of the non-expansion of NATO and the elimination of everything that the alliance has created since 1997,’ Ryabkov told RIA news agency, before declaring that Russia had tried to show flexibility for the past 30 years and it was time for the other side to be flexible.
‘If they are unable to do this, they will face a worsening situation in their own security.’
Putin called the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO and the alliance deploying weapons there as a ‘red line’ for Moscow. The Kremlin demanded that Washington and its allies rescind a 2008 promise of NATO membership to Ukraine and Georgia, which also borders Russia (Putin pictured overseeing military drills, Sept 2021)
US President Joe Biden (R) twice discussed the Russian troop buildup with Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) last month, warning that Moscow would face ‘severe consequences,’ including unprecedented economic and financial sanctions, if it attacked its neighbour (pictured June 2021)
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg today sought to play down expectations of quick results from the week’s discussions.
‘I don´t think that we can expect that these meetings will solve all the issues,’ he told reporters in Brussels on Monday after talks with Olga Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration.
‘What we are hoping for is that we can agree on a way forward, that we can agree on a series of meetings, that we can agree on a process.’
Russia has said that it wants the issue resolved this month, but NATO is wary that Putin might be looking for a pretext, such as a negotiating failure, to launch an invasion. The Russian President warned previously that he would be forced to take unspecified ‘military-technical measures’ should NATO proceed with increased military activity near Russian borders.
He didn’t elaborate beyond saying the Russian response in that scenario ‘could be diverse’ and ‘will depend on what proposals our military experts submit to me.’
Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov said Putin had told Biden that Russia would act just as if the US would have acted if it saw offensive weapons deployed next to its borders.
Putin has noted that the new Zircon hypersonic cruise missile could give Russia a previously unseen precision strike potential if fitted to warships deployed to neutral waters.
The launch of a salvo of Zircons in late December heralded the completion of tests for the new weapon, which Putin said flies at nine times the speed of sound to a range of more than 620 miles.
As world powers race to develop advanced weaponry, Russia has carried out a number of successful tests of its Zircon hypersonic cruise missile. Pictured: An earlier test of Russia’s Zircon missile in November
As officials from the United States and Russia began talks on Monday over Ukraine’s security, Kyiv resident Oleg was among those who questioned why the country at the centre of the crisis was not at the negotiating table.
‘I think it should not be this way,’ the 59-year-old said.
‘Ukraine must be present during those meetings because it is a more interested party than other countries, more interested party than Russia and the United States. Ukraine must be sitting in the first row.’
Ukraine has sought and received assurances from allies that there would be ‘no decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine’, as Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba put it last week – but talks have already begun in Geneva between Russia and the US.
‘Ukraine must be present at such talks because they directly concern its security, its life,’ said another Kyiv resident, 57-year-old accountant Valentyna.
More than 150 people gathered at a protest in Kyiv on Sunday, holding up signs saying ‘SAY NO TO PUTIN’.
A December survey by the KIIS think-tank said 49 per cent of Ukrainians thought the threat of invasion was real, while 59 per cent said they would vote ‘yes’ compared to in a referendum on joining NATO.
Furthermore, 33 per cent said they were ready to put up armed resistance against Russia while a further 21 per cent said they were ready for civil resistance actions.
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