West yet to address security concerns over Ukraine: Putin - GulfToday

West yet to address security concerns over Ukraine: Putin


Vladimir Putin. File

Russia could conduct a “wide range” of aggressive acts against Ukraine, Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday, but he emphasised the window was still open to a peaceful and negotiated resolution.

While the military alliance is still not sure what the Kremlin might do, Stoltenberg told an event hosted by the US think-tank the Atlantic Council that Russia had several options available.

“Cyber (warfare) is one, coup efforts to topple the government in Kiev, sabotage — they have intelligence officers working inside Ukraine as we speak. So we need to be prepared for a wide range of different forms or aggressive actions by Russia against Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said. But he added he was “reluctant to be going too far into speculating, because the aim now is to try to reduce tensions.... We call on Russia to sit down and engage in talks to prevent these kind of scenarios and to find a political solution.”

SECURITY DEMANDS: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday the United States and Nato had not addressed Moscow’s main security demands in their standoff over Ukraine but that it 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 Emmanuel Macron after weeks of personal public silence on the crisis, in which Russia has massed troops near Ukraine.

The Kremlin quoted Putin as telling Macron he would study the responses provided by Washington and Nato this week before deciding on further action.

A French presidency official said Putin had underlined that he did not want the situation to escalate, echoing conciliatory comments by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said Moscow did not want war.

“Attention was drawn to the fact that the US and Nato replies did not take into account Russia’s principal concerns,” the Kremlin said of Putin’s conversation with Macron.

It listed those concerns as avoiding Nato expansion, not deploying offensive weapons near Russia’s borders and returning Nato “military capabilities and infrastructure” to how they were before former Warsaw Pact states in eastern Europe joined.

“The key question was ignored — how the United States and its allies intend to follow the principle of security integrity ... that no one should strengthen their security at the expense of another country’s security,” it said.

The United States and Nato have made clear some of Russia’s demands are non-starters but have also left the door open to dialogue.

The US and Nato formally rejected those demands this week, although Washington outlined areas where discussions are possible, offering hope that there could be a way to avoid war amid the buildup of more than 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine.

WE DON’T NEED PANIC: Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday he could not rule out a further escalation of tensions with Russia but he criticised what he said was too much “panic” weighing on the economy.

Speaking at a news conference, Zelenskiy said: “I don’t consider the situation now more tense than before. There is a feeling abroad that there is war here. That’s not the case.” “I am not saying an escalation is not possible...(but) we don’t need this panic.”

Putin told Macron that Moscow will study the US and Nato response before deciding its next move, according to a Kremlin account of their call. Earlier in the day, Putin held a weekly meeting of his Security Council, saying only that it would address foreign policy issues.

Putin has made no public remarks about the Western response, but Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said it leaves little chance for reaching agreement. “While they say they won’t change their positions, we won’t change ours,” Lavrov told Russian radio stations in a live interview. “I don’t see any room for compromise here.”

“There won’t be a war as far as it depends on the Russian Federation, we don’t want a war,” he added. “But we won’t let our interests be rudely trampled on and ignored.”

Lavrov said the US suggested the two sides could talk about limits on the deployment of intermediate-range missiles, restrictions on military drills and rules to prevent accidents between warships and aircraft. He said that Russia proposed discussing those issues years ago — but Washington and its allies never took them up on it until now.

While welcoming Washington’s offers on confidence-building measures, he argued they are secondary to Russia’s main concerns on Nato. He noted that international agreements say that the security of one nation must not come at the expense of others — and that he would send letters to ask his Western counterparts to explain their failure to respect that pledge.


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