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Russia sees few ’causes for optimism’ that US will meet demands

Russia said Thursday it was not optimistic the United States would meet its expansive security demands to defuse the Ukraine crisis.

New York/Moscow, 28 January 2022 (dpa/MIA) — Russia said Thursday it was not optimistic the United States would meet its expansive security demands to defuse the Ukraine crisis.

In recent weeks, Russia has been amassing tens of thousands of troops on the Ukraine border, triggering fears it may be preparing to invade. Russia denies any such plans.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the US and NATO had “unequivocally” rejected “the main concerns conveyed by the Russian Federation.”

“Based on that, of course, there aren’t that many causes for optimism,” he said.

The remarks came a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent a written letter to Russia in response to its security demands, which includes a halt to NATO’s eastward expansion in Europe.

Blinken said the US gave no concessions and that the document upheld Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as the right of states to choose their own security arrangements and alliances.

Still, Blinken said Washington was offering “a serious diplomatic path forward” to cool tensions.

The written response was “fully coordinated” with Ukraine and other European allies, Blinken said. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba confirmed his side knew in advance what the US would say in the letter.

“We had seen the written response of the US before it was handed over to Russia. No objections on the Ukrainian side,” he tweeted.

Armed conflict between Ukraine and the pro-Russian separatists broke out in 2014, but has since turned into a stalemate with regular eruptions of shelling and skirmishes.

Since November, the US and Europe have been sounding the alarm about a large build up of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, prompting fears that Moscow was planning a military offensive that would dramatically escalate the simmering conflict between the two nations.

The Pentagon said Thursday that the Russian troop build-up had continued in the last 24 hours in western Russia and in Belarus and said it was sending further military aid to Ukraine.

Biden reiterated support for Kiev in a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and said Washington was exploring “additional macroeconomic support” to help Ukraine’s economy amid the pressure from the Russian military build-up.

The US also called a public session of the 15-member UN Security Council to discuss the situation on Monday.

It would be the first time the 15-member council meets to discuss the current escalation in the Ukraine crisis.

US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the meeting was called “after weeks of close consultation with Ukraine and partners on the Security Council” and as “more than 100,000 Russian troops are deployed on the Ukrainian border and Russia is engaging in other destabilizing acts aimed at Ukraine.”

She called for council members to “squarely examine the facts and consider what is at stake for Ukraine, for Russia, for Europe, and for the core obligations and principles of the international order should Russia further invade Ukraine.”

The US and its allies have signaled they are prepared to impose strong sanctions on Russia in the case of an incursion into Ukraine.

Germany and the US on Thursday said a sanctions package could even include targeting the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

Meanwhile, China earlier called for restraint and warned that all parties to the Ukraine conflict should take Russia’s concerns seriously.

“Russia’s legitimate security concerns should be taken seriously and resolved,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during a phone call with Blinken, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Wang called for a return to the Minsk Agreement to solve the Ukraine crisis and said Beijing would support any efforts “in line with the direction and spirit of this agreement.”

The deal was reached in 2014, five months after fighting broke out between government soldiers and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. It was the first ceasefire in the long-running conflict, but the peace plan has stalled.

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