Russia open but not optimistic about US talks on Ukraine crisis | Ukraine-Russia crisis

The Kremlin said there was “little cause for optimism” in resolving the Ukraine crisis after the United States rejected key Russian demands, but that dialogue was still possible.

Relations between Russia and the West are at their lowest since the Cold War after Moscow deployed tens of thousands of troops to the Ukrainian border.

Russia has denied any plans for an invasion, but last month demanded broad security guarantees from the West, including assurances that Ukraine will never be allowed to join the US-led NATO military alliance. United States.

But as expected, the United States and the Western alliance on Wednesday firmly rejected any concessions on key points from Moscow, saying Allied deployments of troops and military equipment in Eastern Europe are non-negotiable. The United States highlighted areas where some of Russia’s concerns could be addressed, possibly offering a path to de-escalation.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday that the response from the United States – and a similar response from NATO – left “little room for optimism”. But he added that “there are always prospects for continuing a dialogue, it is in our interest and in that of the Americans”.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the US response contained some elements that could lead to “the opening of a serious discussion on secondary issues”, but stressed that “the document does not contain any positive response on the issue. main”. These are Moscow’s demands that NATO not expand and that the alliance refrain from deploying weapons that could threaten Russia.

All eyes are now on President Vladimir Putin, who will decide Russia’s reaction to fears that Europe is once again plunged into war. He had warned of unspecified “military-technical measures” if the West refused to heed the demands.

Biden to meet new German leader

The White House has announced that President Joe Biden and new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will discuss Russian aggression against Ukraine at a meeting next month in Washington.

The one-on-one meeting will be Scholz’s first Oval Office meeting since taking charge of his country in December.

Germany’s refusal to join the United States and other NATO members in supplying arms to Ukraine has annoyed some allies and raised questions about Berlin’s determination to stand up to Russia.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said her government was coordinating policy closely with its allies, and that the range of options Berlin would consider in the event of further Russian aggression included action against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

The pipeline, which has yet to start operating, was built to pump natural gas from Russia to Germany, but Berlin has gradually withdrawn from the project amid growing tensions with Moscow.

Baerbock said that while Germany has refused to supply arms to Ukraine, it will continue to provide economic support to Kiev.

Experts said Germany’s position is partly rooted in its history of aggression during the 20th century.

Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane said the government would pressure Russia by imposing sanctions, not by supplying arms to Ukraine.

“The German government has said it is prepared to bear the consequences of refusing to light the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline,” Kane said, speaking from Berlin. “It will cost them and the European economy a considerable amount of money. But the view here is that if the Russian gas supply were completely cut off, it would also cost the Russian economy $200 million a day.

“Complex White House Sequencing”

Biden is expected to have a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy later Thursday, according to Zelenskyy’s spokesperson.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kiev had seen the US response before it was delivered to Russia and had no objections. He tweeted that it was “important that the United States stay in close contact with Ukraine before and after all contacts with Russia.”

During a visit to Denmark, Kuleba stressed the need for his country to strengthen its defenses.

“This crisis is a moment of truth, and that’s why we talk about weapons,” he said. “That’s why we talk about economic sanctions. That’s why we talk about the consolidated position of all of us, so that President Putin sees that there is no weak link in our defensive chain.

Speaking about the upcoming Biden-Zelenskyy talks, Al Jazeera correspondent Alan Fisher said the main talking points would likely focus on ongoing diplomatic efforts, which include the continued supply of military personnel to support Ukraine. , and the prospects for macro-financing to help Kiev with the costs of preparing for a possible Russian invasion.

“It’s all part of a complex sequencing coming from the White House,” Fisher said, speaking from Washington, DC.

On Monday, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is due to arrive in Washington, where he is expected to discuss gas supplies to Europe’s biggest economy, Germany, in case Moscow crosses the border to invade Ukraine.

“And then on February 7, the German Chancellor will be at the White House talking about the common issues they have,” Fisher said, adding that Ukraine would be at the top of the list and Biden would brief Scholz on his talks with the President. Emir of Qatar.

maneuvers of war

Amid the tensions, thousands of Ukrainians expressed their determination to resist Russian pressure under the hashtag #UkrainiansWillResist on Twitter and Facebook.

“No one will force Ukrainians to accept the Kremlin’s ultimatum,” wrote Andrii Levus, who launched the campaign.

As diplomacy heats up, so do the maneuvers that have heightened tensions. Russia has launched a series of military exercises involving motorized infantry and artillery units in southwestern Russia, combat aircraft in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, dozens of warships in the sea Noire and the Arctic, as well as Russian fighter jets and paratroopers in Belarus.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Interior organized training on how to behave in emergency situations, with a focus on handling explosives.

NATO said it was strengthening its deterrence in the Baltic Sea region and the United States ordered 8,500 troops to stand by for potential deployment in Europe.

As concerns about a possible Russian attack persist, a separatist conflict simmers in Ukraine. After the 2014 overthrow of a Kremlin-friendly president in Kyiv, Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and backed an armed operation in the country’s eastern industrial heartland. Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebels has killed more than 14,000 people and efforts to reach a settlement have stalled.

Since the start of the conflict, Russia has been accused of sending troops and weapons to the separatists, which it denies. On Thursday, Peskov would not comment on a proposal by the Kremlin’s main political party, United Russia, which suggested that Moscow respond to the delivery of Western arms to Ukraine by sending weapons to the rebels. He added that Putin was aware of the proposal but had no immediate reaction.

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