MOSCOW: Russian. President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia does not want a war in Europe, but described the situation in east Ukraine’s breakaway regions as “genocide” and called for the conflict there to be resolved through the Minsk peace progress.
Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, following a meeting with German chancellor Olaf Scholz, Putin said Russia’s security proposals suggest signing an agreement with the US and NATO on ensuring equal security for everyone in Europe, including Russia.
According to him, the US and NATO ignored Russia’s three major concerns regarding NATO’s non-expansion eastward, return of the alliance’s military infrastructure to the state it was in 1997, and ban for the deployment of strike weapons near the country’s border, while agreeing to discuss some secondary issues, including military transparency and shorter- and intermediate-range missiles deployment.
“We intend and will strive to negotiate with our partners on the issues that we have raised in order to resolve them diplomatically,” he said.
Putin said he discussed the security guarantees proposals with Scholz, and told him that Russia cannot turn a blind eye to how the US and NATO “misinterpret” the principle of indivisible security.
He said that the US and NATO are trying to put into practice a “forced containment” against Russia, describing it as a threat to the country’s security.
Speaking about the situation in Ukraine, Putin said Russia had been listening to the promises about NATO’s non-expansion eastward for 30 years, and now the neighbouring country, Ukraine, plans to join the alliance.
“The issue of Ukraine’s admission to NATO is being discussed (by Western countries). It is said it (admission) won’t happen tomorrow. Then when? The day after tomorrow? What does it change for us?
“We hear that Ukraine is not ready today to join NATO. And also, tomorrow it won’t be accepted. Will it be accepted when it is prepared?” he questioned.
Putin stressed that he would like to make clear the fate of Ukraine’s admission to NATO at the negotiation process “through peaceful means,” expressing hope “the partners will hear” Russia’s worries and will take them seriously.
For his part, Scholz said Russia and the West’s positions regarding security are different, and that NATO and the EU do not agree with Russia’s security proposals but some points can be discussed, and it is important to maintain the dialogue.
He then stressed that there are no plans for NATO’s expansion. “This is not on the agenda.”
“European security cannot be against Russia only with it,” the chancellor said.
Speaking about the possibility of a war between Russia and Ukraine, Scholz said a war in Europe is “unimaginable,” pointing out diplomatic possibilities for the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis are not exhausted.
Putin opposed him, saying there was a war in Europe, in Yugoslavia, “unleashed by the US and NATO,” but Scholz argued that the situation was different there, there was a threat of genocide.
To that Putin said what is happening right now in the east of Ukraine, “discrimination of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine, cemented in the country’s legislation” is “genocide” for Russia.
Nevertheless, Scholz welcomed the Russian Defense Ministry statement about the return of some of the Russian troops to places of permanent deployment as “a good sign.”
The chancellor provided some details of his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held on Monday. Scholz said Zelensky “firmly promised” to prepare a draft bill about Donbas special status and amendments to the constitution.
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