Reuters-By Natalia Zinets and Vladimir Soldatkin
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference following talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Moscow, Russia February 1, 2022. Yuri Kochetkov/Pool via REUTERS
KYIV/MOSCOW, Feb 1 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West on Tuesday of deliberately creating a scenario designed to lure it into war and ignoring Russia’s security concerns over Ukraine.
Putin had not spoken publicly about the Ukraine crisis since Dec. 23, leaving ambiguity about his personal position while diplomats from Russia and the West have been engaged in repeated rounds of talks.
His remarks on Tuesday reflected a world view in which Russia needs to defend itself from an aggressive and hostile United States. Washington is not primarily concerned with Ukraine’s security, but with containing Russia, Putin said.
“In this sense, Ukraine itself is just an instrument to achieve this goal,” he said.
“This can be done in different ways, by drawing us into some kind of armed conflict and, with the help of their allies in Europe, forcing the introduction against us of those harsh sanctions they are talking about now in the U.S.”
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has often sparred with Western European leaders over democracy in his own country, said he believed after his talks with Putin that there was room for a compromise.
“I got convinced today that the existing differences in positions can be bridged and it is possible to sign an agreement that would guarantee peace, guarantee Russia’s security and is acceptable for NATO member states as well,” Orban said.
GUN TO UKRAINE’S HEAD
As Western countries rush to show solidarity with Ukraine, the U.S. urged Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to cancel a visit with Putin in Russia, a source told Reuters.
On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv and accused Putin of holding a gun to Ukraine’s head to demand changes to the security architecture in Europe.
“It is vital that Russia steps back and chooses a path of diplomacy,” Johnson said. “And I believe that is still possible. We are keen to engage in dialogue, of course we are, but we have the sanctions ready, we’re providing military support and we will also intensify our economic cooperation.”
Johnson said any Russian invasion of Ukraine would lead to a military and humanitarian disaster.
“There are 200,000 men and women under arms in Ukraine, they will put up a very, very fierce and bloody resistance,” he said. “I think that parents, mothers in Russia should reflect on that fact and I hope very much that President Putin steps back from the path of conflict and that we engage in dialogue.”
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, also visiting Kyiv, said Poland would help Ukraine with gas and arms supplies, as well as humanitarian and economic aid.
“Living close to a neighbour like Russia, we have the feeling of living at the foot of a volcano,” said Morawiecki.
Zelenskiy, who has repeatedly played down the prospect of an imminent invasion, signed a decree to boost his armed forces by 100,000 troops over three years. He urged lawmakers to stay calm and avoid panic.
The troop increase was “not because we will soon have a war … but so that soon and in the future there will be peace in Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said.
Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Vladimir Soldatkin; Additional reporting by Matthias Williams and Gabriela Baczynska in Kyiv, Tom Balmforth and Alexander Tanas in Moscow, Krisztina Than in Budapest, Mark Trevelyan, William James and Guy Faulconbridge in London, Simon Lewis, Steve Holland, Eric Beech and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington, Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru and Gabriel Stargardter in Rio De Janeiro; Writing by Peter Graff and Costas Pitas; Editing by Mark Trevelyan, Mark Heinrich and Grant McCool
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