Russia awaits US response on security promises in January, as Ukrainian troops train with anti-tank missiles

MOSCOW (AP) – The Kremlin said on Friday it expects the United States to respond to Moscow’s request for security guarantees next month to prevent NATO expansion in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday urged the West to respond “immediately” to Russia’s request, accusing the United States and its allies of maintaining a military presence “on our doorstep.”

Moscow last week submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and cancel alliance military deployments in central and eastern Europe.

“To discuss de-escalation, we expect our opponents in Washington to provide specific responses to our proposals in January,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday in a conference call with reporters. .

Moscow made its most recent request amid rising tensions over a build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine that fueled fears of a possible invasion. US President Joe Biden warned Putin in a video call earlier this month that Russia would face “serious consequences” if it attacked Ukraine.

Ukrainian troops carried out exercises with US-supplied Javelin anti-tank missiles in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday.

Ukraine has depended heavily on US military aid during its nearly 8-year war with Russia-backed separatists in the east of the country. Kiev received the first batch of Javelin missiles in 2018.

Russia denied plans to launch an attack, but described NATO expansion and arms deployment in Ukraine as a “red line.”

In an annual marathon press conference on Thursday, Putin said the US-Russian talks due to start in Geneva next month were a “positive” move, but he warned that Moscow expects the discussion to happen. fast results.

However, the United States and its allies have said they will not give Russia the kind of guarantee on Ukraine Putin wants. A key principle of NATO is that membership is open to any eligible country. US officials hold talks with European allies ahead of the Geneva talks.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Friday that his country should participate in all NATO security talks with Russia.

“Euro-Atlantic security is at stake in Ukraine, therefore Ukraine should participate in security consultations on the issue,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter. “We support the idea that the US, EU and NATO talk to Russia as long as the main topic is the end of the international armed conflict, Russia’s war against Ukraine.”

Kremlin spokesman Peskov dismissed Western concerns about the concentration of Russian troops near Ukraine, saying the country has the right to deploy its army wherever it deems necessary in its territory. He presented the recent movements as a defensive response to provocations from the West.

He added that “this gives rise to our deep concern and obliges us to take certain measures to ensure our safety.”

“Whatever Russia does with its troops, it does on its own territory. and we cannot allow anyone to challenge this sovereign right, ”Peskov said. “Russia is taking certain measures to move and redeploy its armed forces on its territory due to the hostile measures of our NATO adversaries – the United States and certain European countries which have carried out unambiguous maneuvers near our borders, carried out reconnaissance flights and deployed warships. “

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and soon after supported a separatist rebellion in the east of the country. The fighting, which began more than seven years ago, has left more than 14,000 dead and devastated Ukraine’s industrial heart, known as Donbass.

Earlier this week, Putin warned that Russia will have to take “adequate military-technical measures” if the West continues its “aggressive” course.

On Friday, he praised another successful test of a new Russian hypersonic missile, saying a salvo of Zircon cruise missiles had been fired “without fail” on Friday morning.

“This is a big event for the country and a major step in strengthening Russia’s security and improving its defense capability,” Putin said during a video call with officials.

Friday’s launch was the latest in a series of tests for Zircon, which Putin says is capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound for a distance of over 1,000 kilometers (over 620 miles). The new missile is expected to enter service with the Russian Navy next year and arm its cruisers, frigates and submarines.

Last month, Putin expressed concern that NATO could potentially use Ukrainian territory for the deployment of missiles capable of reaching Moscow in just five minutes and said the Zircon would give Russia a comparable capability. .

“It would also only take five minutes to reach those giving the orders,” Putin said.

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