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World 11:52, 15-Feb-2022
Russia ready for more talks to end Ukraine standoff
Updated 12:57, 15-Feb-2022
Russia held the door open on Monday to further talks on resolving its standoff with the West and said some of its military drills were ending.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin will endorse Russia's response to the U.S. and NATO messages on security guarantees at an appropriate moment.
"First of all, President Putin has always been demanding negotiations and diplomacy," Peskov pointed out, adding "And actually, he initiated the issue of guarantees of security for the Russian Federation. Ukraine is just a part of the problem, it's a part of the bigger problem of security guarantees for Russia and of course President Putin is willing to negotiate."
In December 2021, Russia sent a draft agreement to NATO and a draft treaty to the U.S. both on security guarantees in Europe for the Western countries to consider. The U.S. and NATO had formulated a written response to Russia's proposals on January 26.
A security officer stays in guard at Russian embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 12, 2022. /CFP
Earlier on Monday, Putin held a televised meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussing U.S. and NATO's responses to Russia's proposals. "There is always a chance" to reach an agreement with the West over Ukraine, Lavrov said, suggesting that Moscow continues to move along the diplomatic path in its efforts to extract security guarantees from the West.
Lavrov told Putin the United States had put forward concrete proposals on reducing military risks, but said responses from the European Union and NATO military alliance had not been satisfactory.
"I would suggest continuing," Lavrov said in televised remarks. "Fine," Putin replied.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in a meeting on Monday also told Putin that some of the drills were "ending" and more would end "in the near future".
Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, said on Monday that the parliament would consider two resolutions on the recognition of eastern Ukraine's Lugansk and Donetsk regions as independent. The appeal will be considered and voted on Tuesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the nation on Monday. The leader, who has been playing down suggestions that a Russian attack is imminent, told Ukrainians to stay calm.
"We want peace, and we want to settle all the issues only through negotiations," he said.
He called on Ukrainians to fly the country's flags from buildings and sing the national anthem in unison on February 16, a date that some in the Western media have cited as a possible start of a Russian invasion.
"They tell us February 16 will be the day of the attack. We will make it a day of unity," Zelensky said in a video address.
Ukrainian officials stressed that Zelensky was not predicting an attack, but responding with skepticism to foreign media reports.
The Ukrainian president Monday also met with visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Kyiv. Zelensky told reporters that the two sides talked about the situation in Ukraine and the legal guarantees that would help protect the country.
On Tuesday, Scholz is scheduled to fly to Moscow to meet Putin.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attend a joint press conference following their talks at The Mariinskyi Palace in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 14, 2022. /CFP
'Crucial window for diplomacy' remains
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. President Joe Biden agreed in a call on Monday that a "crucial window for diplomacy" remained over the crisis in Ukraine, Johnson's office said.
"They agreed there remained a crucial window for diplomacy and for Russia to step back from its threats towards Ukraine," a Downing Street spokesman added of the call between the transatlantic allies.
The two leaders also stressed that diplomatic discussions with Russia remained "the first priority", and welcomed talks that have already taken place between Russia and NATO allies, according to the spokesman.
The White House in a statement said the two leaders reviewed diplomatic efforts around Ukraine and reaffirmed their support for its sovereignty.
They also discussed efforts to reinforce the defensive posture on NATO's eastern flank and the readiness among their allies and partners to impose severe consequences on Russia should it choose further military escalation, the White House added.
The U.S. also said it will temporarily relocate its embassy in Ukraine from Kyiv to the western city of Lviv, citing escalating tensions on Ukraine's borders.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday that Ottawa is sending lethal military weaponry to Ukraine and loaning Kyiv $490 million.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called for diplomacy to defuse the heightened tensions between Russia and Ukraine after separate talks with both Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers.
"There is no alternative to diplomacy. All issues, including the most intractable, can and must be addressed and resolved through diplomatic frameworks. It is my firm belief that this principle will prevail," said Guterres