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Russia says no new talks on Ukraine until West responds to demands

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)
Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (L) and her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov (photo by AFP)

Russia has ruled out any further talks with the United States and NATO over the situation around Ukraine unless the West responds properly to its security demands.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the remark at a joint press conference with visiting German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Tuesday, saying Moscow wanted answers on its security proposals before engaging in further discussions over Ukraine.

"We are now awaiting responses to these proposals -- as we were promised -- in order to continue negotiations," he said.

 "Let's hope these talks will continue," Lavrov added.

Tensions are rising on the Russian-Ukrainian border, with the US, Ukraine, and several other Western countries accusing Russia of planning "an invasion" of Ukraine amid a military buildup near the Ukrainian border. Moscow rejects the allegations and insists that deployments are defensive in nature.

Last month, the Russian government made demands on NATO and Ukraine about the future of their relationship, calling on the Western military alliance to deny Ukraine membership to NATO and to roll back its military deployments.

Moscow also proposed that the US not establish any military bases in former Soviet states that are not part of NATO, nor develop a bilateral military alliance with them.

Washington has rejected the proposals as "non-starters."

Russia has repeatedly warned that Moscow will act if the US-led NATO military alliance crosses its red lines in Ukraine.

Russia held a series of diplomatic meetings with US and its NATO allies last week in Geneva, Brussels, and Vienna over the Ukraine crisis. During the talks, the Russian representatives reiterated Moscow's demand for security guarantees to be taken seriously.

The latest development comes as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is preparing to fly to Kiev for talks on Wednesday. The State Department announced that Blinken would meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky to "reinforce the United States' commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Blinken will later head to the German capital, Berlin, on Thursday for four-way talks with Britain, France, and Germany on the Ukraine crisis, the department's spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

In a call with Lavrov ahead of his trip, Blinken "stressed the importance of continuing a diplomatic path to de-escalate tensions," Price said in a separate statement.

Meanwhile, US envoy to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield has stressed in an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday that talks with Russia have not broken down, adding that Washington is "continuing to engage" with Moscow.

"We're still talking to the Russians. But we’re also watching their actions, and we’re watching their actions very, very closely," she said.

Russia calls on US to abandon plans to provide more weapons to Ukraine

In a related development, the Russian Embassy in Washington has called on the United States to abandon plans to provide more weapons to Ukraine.

"If the United States is truly committed to diplomatic efforts to resolve the intra-Ukrainian conflict, they should abandon plans to supply new batches of weapons for the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Instead, Washington should use its influence on the Ukrainian authorities to convince them to stop sabotaging the Minsk Agreements," the embassy said in a statement on Facebook on Tuesday.

Last week, CNN reported that the US authorities had authorized additional military aid to Ukraine worth $200 million. According to the report, the US intends to provide Ukraine with small arms, ammunition, and medical and radar surveillance equipment.

The statement further said Moscow also called on Washington to end the hysteria around the Donbass issue.

"We stress once again: Russia is not going to attack anyone. The practice of moving troops on our own soil is a sovereign right. We call to end the hysteria and not to pile on tension around the Donbass problem. And most importantly -- not to push 'hotheads' in Kiev towards new provocations," the statement said.

Ukraine as well as the EU and the US claim that Russia has a hand in an ongoing conflict in the Donbass region of Ukraine between government forces and ethnic Russians since 2014. Russia rejects that allegation.


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