Putin accuses US of trying to lure Russia into war By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks off 10 Downing Street in London, UK, 31 January 2022. REUTERS / Henry Nicholls

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By Natalia Zinets and Vladimir Soldatkin

KYIV / MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday accused the West of deliberately creating a scenario designed to lure it into war and ignore Russia’s security concerns over Ukraine.

In his first direct public comments on the crisis in nearly six weeks, a defiant Putin showed no sign of backing from security demands the West has called non-starters and a possible excuse to launch an invasion, which Moscow denies.

“It is already clear … that fundamental Russian concerns were ignored,” Putin told a news conference with Hungary’s visiting prime minister, one of several NATO leaders trying to intercede with him as the crisis has subsided. intensified.

Putin described a potential future scenario in which Ukraine joined NATO and then sought to recapture the Crimean peninsula, the territory that Russia conquered in 2014.

“Let’s imagine Ukraine is a NATO member and start these military operations. Should we go to war with the NATO bloc? Has anyone thought about that? Apparently not,” he said.

Russia has gathered more than 100,000 troops at the Ukrainian border, and Western countries say they fear Putin is planning to invade.

Russia denies this, but has said it could take unspecified military action unless its security requirements are met. Western countries say any invasion will lead to sanctions against Moscow.

The Kremlin wants the West to respect a 1999 agreement that no country can strengthen its own security at the expense of others, which it considers the core of the crisis, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

He raised the charter, which was signed in Istanbul by members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which includes the United States and Canada, during a conversation with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Lavrov said Blinken accepted the need to discuss the matter further, while a US report on the call focused on the need for Moscow to withdraw.

“If President Putin really does not intend to have a war or a regime change,” the secretary told Foreign Minister Lavrov, “then it’s time to withdraw troops and heavy weapons and engage in a serious discussion,” a senior Foreign Ministry official told journalists.

The United States is willing to discuss giving the Kremlin a way to verify the absence of Tomahawk cruise missiles at NATO bases in Romania and Poland if Russia shares similar information on missiles at certain Russian bases, Bloomberg reported.

The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but a source familiar with the situation said the United States has only offered to hold talks on a number of Russia’s concerns, such as arms control issues in relevant forums.

‘INSTRUMENT’

Putin had not spoken publicly about the Ukraine crisis since December 23, leaving ambiguity about his personal stance, while diplomats from Russia and the West have been involved in repeated rounds of talks.

His statements on Tuesday reflected a worldview in which Russia has to defend itself against an aggressive and hostile United States. Washington is not primarily concerned with Ukraine’s security, but with restricting Russia, Putin said.

“In this way, Ukraine itself is merely an instrument to achieve this goal,” he said.

“This can be done in various ways, by dragging us into a form of armed conflict and, with the help of their allies in Europe, forcing the introduction against us of the harsh sanctions they are talking about now in the United States.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has often sparred with Western European leaders on democracy in his own country, said after his talks with Putin that he believed there was room for a compromise.

“I was convinced today that the existing differences in attitudes can be bridged and that it is possible to sign an agreement that guarantees peace, guarantees Russia’s security and is also acceptable to NATO member countries,” Orban said.

PISTOL IN THE HEAD OF UKRAINES

While Western countries are in a hurry to show solidarity with Ukraine, the United States called on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to cancel a visit to Putin in Russia, a source told Reuters.

On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kiev and accused Putin of holding a gun to Ukraine’s head to demand changes to security architecture in Europe.

“It is crucial that Russia steps down and chooses a path to diplomacy,” Johnson said. “And I think that is still possible. We are eager to enter into dialogue, of course we are, but we have the sanctions ready, we are providing military support and we also want to intensify our economic cooperation.”

Johnson said any Russian invasion of Ukraine would lead to a military and humanitarian catastrophe.

“There are 200,000 men and women under arms in Ukraine, they will offer a very, very hard and bloody resistance,” he said. “I think parents, mothers in Russia should reflect on that fact, and I very much hope that President Putin steps down from the path of conflict and that we enter into dialogue.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who also visited Kiev, said Poland would help Ukraine with gas and weapons supplies as well as humanitarian and economic assistance.

“When we live close to a neighbor like Russia, we have the feeling of living at the foot of a volcano,” Morawiecki said.

Zelenskiy, who has repeatedly downplayed the prospect of an impending invasion, signed a decree to strengthen his armed forces with 100,000 troops over three years. He urged lawmakers to remain calm and avoid panic.

The troop increase was “not because we want a war soon … but because there will be peace in Ukraine soon and in the future,” Zelenskiy said.

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