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‘Little ground for optimism’ after latest Ukraine talks, warns Russia



There is “little ground for optimism” over talks to solve the crisis in Ukraine, Russia has warned.

This comes amid heightened tensions in the region, caused by the build-up of more than 100,000 Russian troops near its border with Ukraine.

The Kremlin’s pessimistic outlook came in response to its latest round of inconclusive exchanges with Washington, which is hoping to de-escalate the risk of war in Europe.

The US and its allies have not accepted any of Moscow’s demands, which include a call for Nato to promise it will never allow Ukraine to join its defensive alliance. This has been categorically ruled out by the west.

Earlier this week, the US submitted written answers to Russia’s stipulations, which the latter has said are needed to improve security in Europe.

“There is no change, there will be no change,” US secretary of state Antony Blinken said, reiterating that Russia will be hit by enormous sanctions if it attacks its neighbour.

Referring to the Biden administration’s refusal to agree to concessions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it presented “little ground for optimism”.

However, he tempered this comment by suggesting that diplomatic channels would stay open. “There always are prospects for continuing a dialogue, it’s in the interests of both us and the Americans,” he said.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov echoed this message, saying that there was “no positive response on the main issue” but that some elements could result in “the start of a serious talk on secondary issues”.

On Thursday, another foreign ministry official, Vladimir Ermakov, accused the US of planning to move short or intermediate-range missiles to Europe and Asia.

“We continue to insist it is a priority to reach a principled understanding that the problems in this area must be urgently addressed. Otherwise, new ‘missile crises’ are unavoidable,” he said.

The latest flurry of lines from the Kremlin follow security talks in Paris on Wednesday with Ukraine, France and Germany.

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said no concrete progress had been made in these discussions, but expressed hope for the talks scheduled to take place in Berlin next month.

“Nothing has changed, this is the bad news,” Mr Kuleba said.

“The good news is that advisers agreed to meet in Berlin in two weeks, which means that Russia for the next two weeks is likely to remain on the diplomatic track,” he added.

As discussions between Russia and the west continue, Moscow shows no sign of reining in its military.

This week has seen Russian troops engage in military drills on land and sea, including artillery practice in south-western Russia and fighter jet exercises by the Black Sea. It has also sent more soldiers to Belarus, justifying the move by saying it will hold joint war games with Belarus in February.

Meanwhile, the west has sent weapons such as anti-tank missiles to Ukraine to help it in the event of an invasion. However, Nato has said it will not send troops to Kyiv’s defence.

Additional reporting by Reuters



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