Russia says security impasse remains as Ukraine decries ‘panic’ over war fears

Kyiv says invasion warnings overblown and could damage stability and economy

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has said Russia will not let its interests be ‘rudely trampled on’. Photograph: AFP/Getty

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has said Russia will not let its interests be ‘rudely trampled on’. Photograph: AFP/Getty

 

Russian president Vladimir Putin has said the United States and Nato have failed to address the Kremlin’s key security concerns, as his Ukrainian counterpart urged western allies not to sow “panic” over Moscow’s show of military force near his country’s borders.

The US and Britain have been particularly vocal in warning that a new Russian attack on Ukraine could be imminent, while EU members and Kyiv say Moscow’s military moves are menacing but might not be a prelude to an invasion.

Mr Putin told French president Emmanuel Macron that in written responses to Moscow’s security demands the US and Nato “did not address Russia’s fundamental concerns such as stopping Nato expansion, not deploying assault weapons near Russia’s borders, or rolling Nato’s military capacity and infrastructure in Europe back to where they were in 1997”, the Kremlin said.

During Friday’s telephone conversation, Mr Putin said “the Russian side would carefully study the written responses ... after which it would decide on further action”.

Four rounds of talks between Russian diplomats and their US and European counterparts this month failed to solve the dispute, with Washington describing as “non-starters” Moscow’s demands that Nato bar accession to any more countries in eastern Europe and withdraw its troops from member states in the region.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that he expected to meet US secretary of state Antony Blinken for more talks in the next fortnight

“If it depends on Russia, then there will be no war. We don’t want wars. But we also won’t allow our interests to be rudely trampled, to be ignored,” he said. “While they say they won’t change their positions, we won’t change ours,” he added. “I don’t see any room for compromise here.”

Troop movement

In recent weeks, Russia has moved some 100,000 troops and armoured vehicles, artillery and missile and electronic warfare systems towards Ukraine and into Kremlin ally Belarus, giving it the opportunity to attack from the east, north or from Crimea in the south, which the Kremlin annexed in 2014.

Russia’s military has also moved blood supplies and other medical material towards Ukraine recently, three unnamed US officials told Reuters.

US president Joe Biden told Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Thursday that “there is a distinct possibility that the Russians could invade Ukraine in February,” according to White House national security council spokeswoman Emily Horne.

In Kyiv on Friday, Mr Zelenskiy said: “We don’t need this panic.”

“There are signals even from respected leaders of states, they just say that tomorrow there will be war. This is panic – how much does it cost our state?” he said.

He also criticised the US and Britain for removing some staff from their embassies in Kyiv. “These are the captains of the diplomatic corps, they’re the representatives of their respective countries. And the captains are the last who should leave the ship ... I don’t think we have a Titanic here,” he said.

“I understand deeply what’s going on in our state just as he [Mr Biden] deeply understands what’s going on in the United States ... Do we have tanks in our streets? No. But if you’re not here you get the sense from the media that there’s a war on.”

Western leaders have pledged to impose deeply damaging sanctions on Russia if it launches a new assault on Ukraine, and are discussing ways to mitigate the damage of possible Kremlin retaliation.

The US and EU said on Friday they were “working jointly towards continued, sufficient and timely supply of natural gas to the EU from diverse sources across the globe to avoid supply shocks, including those that could result from a further Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

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