Blinken says won't give formal response to Russia's Ukraine crisis proposals

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)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken poses with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as they arrive for a meeting on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial summit, in Reykjavik, Iceland, May 19, 2021. (Getty Images)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday he will not present a formal response to Russian proposals on the Ukraine crisis in talks this week, saying the two sides needed to explore common ground.

Russia -- whose foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, will meet Blinken in Geneva -- presented unusually detailed draft proposals to the United States after amassing tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine's borders.

"I won't be presenting a paper at that time to Foreign Minister Lavrov," Blinken told reporters Wednesday in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.

"We need to see where we are and see if there remain opportunities to pursue the diplomacy and pursue the dialogue which, as I have said, is by far the preferable course," he said.

Blinken reiterated that some Russian ideas were "clearly, absolutely, non-starters" such as explicitly barring Ukraine from joining NATO.

Instead of making counter-proposals, "we have raised our concern about challenges that Russia poses to the security of the European area", Blinken said.

The meeting comes the week after the two top diplomats' deputies met in Geneva and the United States proposed working together with Russia on arms control.

"We talked about areas where clearly, if there is a will, we could make progress on a reciprocal basis to improve security for everyone," Blinken said.

The Kremlin said tension around Ukraine was increasing and it was still waiting for a written US response to its sweeping demands for security guarantees from the West.

On a visit to Kyiv to show support for Ukraine, the top US diplomat said Ukrainians should prepare for difficult days. He said Washington would keep providing defence assistance to Ukraine and renewed a promise of severe sanctions against Russia in the event of a new invasion. 

Blinken said Russia could launch a new attack on Ukraine at "very short notice" but Washington would pursue diplomacy as long as it could, even though it was unsure what Moscow really wanted.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Western weapons deliveries to Ukraine, military manoeuvres and NATO aircraft flights were to blame for rising tensions around Ukraine.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said he did not believe there was a risk of a large-scale war. He reiterated that Moscow had no plans to attack, strike or invade Ukraine.

Ryabkov called on the West to stop supplying Ukraine with weapons, amid boiling tensions between Moscow and the West.

In his remarks on Wednesday, he described such military help as a threat to his country, Interfax news agency reported. The senior Russian diplomat also defined the situation around European security as "critical."

Earlier in the day, a senior US official confirmed that Washington has authorized an additional 200 million dollars in security aid to Ukraine. Late last year, the White House delivered 450 million dollars in military aid to Ukraine.

Britain said this week it had begun supplying Ukraine with anti-tank weapons.

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.

President Putin and other senior Russian officials have said time and again that Moscow needs Western guarantees precluding any further NATO expansion and deployment of its weapons Russia's borders. 

(Source: Agencies and Press TV)

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