Russia rules out concessions to US in talks on Ukraine

Moscow 'disappointed' by West's response to its security demands

Ukrainian reservists attend a military exercise at a training ground near Kiev. EPA
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Russia has said it will not make concessions to the US and is disappointed with the noises coming from western powers before high-stakes talks on the situation in Ukraine.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said on Sunday it was "entirely possible" that talks with the Americans could end abruptly after a single meeting.

Moscow and Washington hold talks on Monday before Russian delegates talk to Nato on Wednesday and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Thursday in a series of diplomatic showdowns.

Under pressure to pull back its troops from the Ukrainian border, Russia is pushing for a wide-ranging security agreement that would curb Nato’s influence in Eastern Europe.

But Nato and the US have indicated that many of Moscow’s proposals are non-starters.

“We are disappointed with the signals coming in the last few days from Washington but also from Brussels,” Mr Ryabkov told Russian news agencies.

He will lead the Russian delegation in Monday’s talks, with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman representing the US.

“We will not agree to any concession. That is completely excluded,” Mr Ryabkov said.

“If we walk in circles and repeat the same thing, if we do not see the slightest signs of readiness from the other side to take into account our priorities, to react to them in a constructive way, then the dialogue will become pointless.”

US and Russian delegates will meet in Geneva, Switzerland, the site of last year's talks between the two presidents. AP

Monday’s talks will take place in Geneva, where Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin met last year. The Swiss city has hosted several previous summits between the two countries.

Nato says Russia has amassed tens of thousands of combat-ready troops on the Ukrainian border, sparking fears of an invasion, and is refusing to de-escalate despite the threat of sanctions.

The alliance said on Friday that it had to be prepared for the talks with Russia to fail. A senior US official said the White House was approaching the meetings with “a sense of realism, not a sense of optimism”.

If Russia attacks Ukraine, the consequences for Moscow could include sanctions, increased assistance to Kiev and an “enhanced Nato force posture” on the territory of US allies, they said.

The official said nothing would be agreed to without consulting with allies, after the EU expressed concern about the two former Cold War superpowers carving up Europe without input from Brussels or Ukraine.

Josep Borrell, the EU's top foreign policy representative, said in remarks published on Sunday that Russia "seems to intend to turn the clock backward to the old times of Cold War logics".

"These times have definitely passed and we need to be clear that nothing will be discussed about the security in Europe without the Europeans," he said.

Russia’s proposals include a veto on Nato membership for countries such as Ukraine, Sweden and Finland, a demand widely rejected by those countries and their allies.

"There should be no limits placed on Ukraine’s independence or its right to determine its foreign policy choices," said Mr Borrell.

Updated: January 09, 2022, 3:43 PM
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