US official Wendy Sherman (left) and her Russian counterpart Sergei Ryabkov pose for pictures in Geneva. AFP
Top US and Russian diplomats kicked off crucial talks in Geneva on Monday on soaring tensions over Ukraine, amid fears of a Russian invasion of its pro-Western neighbour.
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and her Russian counterpart Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov opened their meeting at the US mission in Geneva at 8:55am (0755 GMT), a State Department spokesperson said.
In earlier reports Negotiations between Russia and the United States aimed at addressing a crisis in Ukraine began in the Swiss city of Geneva on Monday.
Russia is also due to hold negotiations with NATO in Brussels on Wednesday and at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna on Thursday.
The Russian convoy arrives at the US permanent Mission, in Geneva, on Monday for talks over Ukraine. AFP
Meanwhile, Putin has described 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 make a binding pledge excluding NATO’s expansion to Ukraine, Georgia or any other ex-Soviet nations.
Moscow has also demanded that the US and its allies make a commitment not to deploy weapons or conduct any military activities in Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations.
The US and its allies have roundly rejected the demand for NATO not to admit Ukraine or any other new members, emphasizing that a key alliance principle is that membership is open to any qualifying country and no outsiders have veto power.
While Ukraine and Georgia aren’t yet ready for NATO membership and have little prospect of being invited to join soon, the Western allies insist that NATO’s doors must remain open to them. In 2008, NATO promised to eventually embrace the two nations, although it hasn't offered them a specific road map to membership.
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