Putin tells Macron the West has not addressed Russia's security concerns

Moscow is opposed to any further expansion of Nato

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Nato and US responses to Russia’s security demands failed to take into account Moscow’s fundamental concerns, Russian President Vladimir Putin has told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

He added that the Kremlin would continue to work towards a resolution of the current tension over Ukraine.

Russia is opposed to a further expansion of Nato and the deployment of strike weapons systems near Russian territory — things the responses did not properly address, the Kremlin said.

Mr Putin said the responses had also failed to explain how security in Europe could be guaranteed without hurting defence concerns of other countries.

Nonetheless, in their phone call on Friday, Mr Putin told Mr Macron that Russia would study western responses carefully.

According to a French official, the Russian leader said "very clearly that he did not want confrontation".

"President Putin expressed no offensive plans and said he wanted to continue the talks with France and our allies," the aide said.

During the call, which lasted more than an hour, the two leaders agreed on the need for "de-escalation".

The conversation was described by the French side as "serious and respectful", which highlighted "fundamental differences" but also a "joint desire" to keep talking.

Nonetheless, Reuters reported that Russia's military build-up near Ukraine has expanded to include supplies of blood along with other medical materials that would allow it to treat casualties, in yet another indicator of Moscow's military readiness.

Current and former US officials say concrete indicators — like blood supplies — are critical in determining whether Moscow would be prepared to carry out an invasion, if Mr Putin decided to do so.

Moscow has made a series of security demands amid tension over a build-up of about 100,000 Russian troops on its border with Ukraine. Among those are a ban on Kiev ever joining Nato, which has been rejected by the military alliance.

Russia denies it is planning an invasion of Ukraine, but its actions have led to western powers upping their military readiness in Eastern Europe while threatening Moscow with heavy sanctions.

Mr Macron had announced earlier this week he would hold the call with Mr Putin in the spirit of a “demanding dialogue” aimed at clarifying Moscow's intentions in regard to Ukraine.

High-level talks between Russia and the West have failed to make headway so far.

But on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov insisted his country didn’t want war.

Mr Lavrov said the West was ignoring Russia's interests but there was “something” in the written responses submitted by the US and Nato on Wednesday that addressed Russia's proposals.

While the responses have not been made public, both have stated they are willing to engage with Moscow on arms control and confidence-building measures.

Mr Lavrov said he expected to meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken again in the next couple of weeks.

German intelligence chief Bruno Kahl also said on Friday that Moscow had not yet made the decision on whether to attack Ukraine.

Updated: January 28, 2022, 6:24 PM
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