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Kremlin says no room for optimism about US talks over Ukraine

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov moderates Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual press conference at the Manezh exhibition hall in central Moscow, on December 23, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

The Kremlin says the first round of talks with the United States over Ukraine provided no ground for optimism and that further negotiations are necessary to ease tensions between the two sides.

Speaking at a news briefing in Moscow on Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the Monday talks in the Swiss city of Geneva as “positive” and said the negotiations had been held in an “open, substantive, and direct manner.”

Peskov, however, said there was no room for optimism and that the situation would be clearer after more rounds of talks.

“We see no real reason to be optimistic so far. The first round of the talks were positive, as Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov assessed them, regarding how it was held: in an open, substantive, and direct manner. But the purpose of this negotiation process is not the process itself, so it cannot satisfy us. The talks’ result is significant but nothing can be said about the result yet,” the spokesman said.

“There will be several more rounds of talks, and they will help us get the picture more clearly and understand where we are with the Americans. It is impossible to draw any conclusions now,” he added.

Peskov said Russia was not setting deadlines for the talks but would not accept a drawn-out process either.

Peskov’s remarks came a day after Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and his American counterpart, Wendy Sherman, held more than seven hours of negotiations in Geneva, which focused on a wide-ranging new security arrangement that Moscow is seeking with the West over NATO’s eastward expansion and Ukraine’s potential membership in the US-led military alliance.

In press briefings after the talks, the two diplomats spoke of substantial differences. Ryabkov said Russia and the US had “opposite views on what needs to be done,” and Sherman said the Russian proposals had been “simply non-starters to the United States.”

Russia is due to hold two further rounds of talks this week with NATO in Brussels on Wednesday and with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna on Thursday.

Russia-NATO talks are moment of truth’

Alexander Grushko, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said on Tuesday that ties between Russia and NATO had reached a “moment of truth” ahead of the high-stake talks over Ukraine.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that a moment of truth is coming in our relations with the alliance,” Grushko said. “Our expectations are entirely realistic and we hope that this will be a serious, deep conversation on key, fundamental problems of European security.”

He said Russia would demand a comprehensive response from the alliance to its security demands. “We will push for a concrete, substantive, article-by-article reaction to the Russian draft agreement on guarantees.”

Ahead of the first round of the talks on Monday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Russia of “severe costs” if it launched an attack on Ukraine. Stoltenberg also said he did not expect the talks to “solve all the issues,” but expressed hope that the negotiations could pave the way for a diplomatic solution.

Western governments accuse Russia of planning an invasion of Ukraine amid a military buildup near the Ukrainian border. Moscow rejects the allegation and insists that deployments are defensive in nature.

Recently, Moscow has been especially unsettled by the prospect of Ukraine being admitted to NATO and has warned of serious measures to counteract that scenario. Last month, the Russian government put forth a number of security guarantees that it said it wanted from the West, in particular about Ukraine, and offered to take certain measures in exchange.

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