Russian President Vladimir Putin has told his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, that the West's response to Moscow's security demands did not take into account the Kremlin's key concerns over Ukraine.
Putin and Macron held a "long" telephone conversation on Friday, a day after the United States and NATO delivered separate written responses to Moscow's security demands, according to the Kremlin.
"The US and NATO responses did not take into account Russia's fundamental concern, including preventing NATO's expansion and refusing to deploy strike weapons systems near Russia's borders," Putin told Macron, according to a readout of their call.
Last month, Russia provided the United States and its NATO allies with an array of security guarantees that it said it wanted the West to commit to, in an attempt to defuse the escalation of tensions over Ukraine. Those included a permanent ban on Ukraine joining NATO and the abandonment of any NATO military activities in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia.
The Kremlin said that Putin had told Macron that the US had "ignored" other key concerns outlined by the Kremlin and had failed to explain how security in Europe could be guaranteed without hurting the defense concerns of other countries.
Putin also told Macron that he would "carefully" study the US and NATO's responses, "after which he will decide on his further actions.”
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier this week that Moscow would take unspecified "appropriate measures" if Washington and its NATO allies refused to provide Russia with the security guarantees it is demanding.
President Putin, however, said on Friday that the Kremlin would not take action immediately.
NATO response embarrassing for the alliance: Russian FM
In separate remarks, and earlier in the day, Lavrov described NATO's response as "embarrassing" for the alliance.
"The response from NATO is so ideological, it has such a sense of exceptionalism of the North Atlantic Alliance, its special mission, its special purpose, that I even felt a little embarrassed for those who wrote it," Lavrov said.
The foreign minister said that negotiations with both the US and NATO would still continue.
"I can't say that the negotiations are over," Lavrov said. "The Americans and NATO, as you know, have been studying our extremely simple proposals for more than a month… but there are grains of rationality there."
Ball in Putin's court: France
In a related development, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday that "the ball is in Putin's court" now.
"It's up to Vladimir Putin to say if he wants confrontation or consultation. We are ready for consultation. But it still takes two to do it," he added.
Macron had announced earlier this week he would hold the telephone talks with Putin in the spirit of a "demanding dialog" with Moscow for clarification over Ukraine.
Relations between Russia and the West have hit a new low in recent weeks. The US, its NATO allies, and Ukraine have accused Moscow of planning an invasion of Ukraine by amassing troops near the border of that country. Russia denies harboring plans for an invasion and says it is free to move its troops around within its own borders.