https://www.dw.com-The Russian president said a solution to the crisis is “not simple” but confirmed the Kremlin is open to more talks as tensions rise over Ukraine. The comments came after he met Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Putin said he hoped for more dialogue on Ukraine in order to avoid “negative scenarios”
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that the West had “ignored” Moscow’s security concerns in his first public remarks over the Ukraine standoff in more than a month.
Last week the US and NATO responded to the Kremlin’s calls for legally binding security guarantees.
However, Putin believes Russia’s requests have fallen on deaf ears. He told reporters: “We are carefully analyzing the written responses received from the United States and NATO.”
“But it is already clear that fundamental Russian concerns ended up being ignored,” he said, before adding the Kremlin is still poring over the US and NATO’s feedback.
“I hope that in the end we will find a solution, although it will not be simple,” Putin said, indicating he was ready for more talks with the West, which has accused Russia of amassing more than 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine ahead of a planned invasion of its neighbor.
“It seems to me that the United States is not so much concerned about the security of Ukraine but its main task is to contain Russia’s development,” Putin said.
“In this sense Ukraine itself is just a tool to reach this goal. This could be done in various ways,” he said.
Putin added that French President Emmanuel Macron could come to Moscow for talks “in the near future.”
Hungary’s Orban meets Putin despite opposition
Putin made the comments after holding talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Though “substantial” the differences between the West and Moscow on the Ukraine crisis are “bridgeable,” Orban said in a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart.
“It is possible to make such an agreement that both guarantees peace and Russia’s security, and that is also acceptable for NATO members.”
Orban’s arrival in Moscow on Tuesday heralded the first in-person meeting with Putin from an EU leader since the Ukraine crisis escalated.
Earlier in the day, the Hungarian PM said he had “high hopes that for many years to come we can work together,” and stressed that no European leader wants a war in the region.
And Putin thanked Orban for “doing a lot” for the Russian-Hungarian relationship.
Ahead of the trip, Hungarian opposition leaders appealed to Orban to cancel the visit as it was “contrary to our national interests.”
In a joint statement, the opposition also said that the prime minister “indirectly encourages the Russian president to further escalate the current tense situation.”
Hungary and Poland differ over Russia
Orban has held regular talks with Putin in the past and Tuesday’s talks are being closely watched by Western allies.
Fellow EU state Poland will likely be taking note of developments. Warsaw and Budapest have been closely aligned in disputes with the EU over rule of law and are both facing potential censure from the bloc. But their sentiments diverge when it comes to ties with Moscow, with Poland among Russia’s staunchest European critics.
On the same day as Orban’s talks with Putin, close ally Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has traveled to Kyiv to meet with Western-backed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Poland last year accused its neighbor and Russian ally Belarus of instigating unrest at its border by encouraging asylum-seekers to try to cross it without Warsaw’s blessing.
In October, Warsaw also announced plans to significantly increase defensive capability, citing “Russia’s imperial ambitions” among the reasons to do so.
Poland’s government has also unveiled a homeland defense bill that could see troop numbers more than double from the current number of 110,000 to 250,000 soldiers, along with 50,000 reserve troops.
US: Russia should pull back troops if it has no invasion plans
Meanwhile, earlier on Tuesday the United States and the United Kingdom both offered stern warnings to Russia.
Washington’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his opposite number Sergei Lavrov in a phone call that Russia should pull back its troops from the border with Ukraine if Moscow is not intending to invade, a senior State Department official told reporters.
Blinken and Lavrov held a “professional and fairly candid” conversation in English, the official said.
“We continue to hear assurances that Russia is not planning to invade, but certainly every action we see says otherwise, with the continued build up of troops, heavy weapons, moving to the border,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity, as reported by both the Associated Press and Reuters.
“If President Putin truly does not intend war or regime change, the Secretary told Foreign Minister Lavrov then this is the time to pull back troops and heavy weaponry and engage in a serious discussion….that can enhance collective European security,” the official added.
Putin ‘holding a gun to Ukraine’s head,’ says Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of
“intimidating” Ukraine in a bid to force the West into redrawing the post-Cold War security map of Europe.
During a visit to Ukraine, Johnson said Putin was jeopardizing security by carving out spheres of influence that would again divide Europe, rolling back the freedoms gained after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
“He is trying, by holding a gun as it were to the head of Ukraine, to get us to change the way we look at something that was absolutely fantastic,” Johnson said in Kyiv.
After canceling a call with Putin on Monday due to an outpouring of anger over parties at the heart of the British government while the country was in a coronavirus lockdown, Johnson said he would speak to the Russian president on Wednesday.
Johnson dismissed suggestions that the West might be exaggerating the Russian threat, warning that Britain would impose sanctions on Russian strategic commercial interests and individuals if it invaded Ukraine.
jsi, kb/nm (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)