Putin Reiterates Need For 'Immediate' Talks With NATO On Security Guarantees
By RFE/RL December 14, 2021
Russian President Vladimir Putin has again called for "immediate" talks with the United States and NATO over security guarantees as tensions mount over Ukraine.
Putin reiterated the demand in phone calls with his Finnish and French counterparts on December 14, the Kremlin said.
In recent weeks, Ukraine and its Western backers have accused Russia of massing troops near their common border as a possible prelude to an invasion as early as next month.
Russian officials deny Moscow is preparing any offensive, instead accusing Ukraine of provocation and insisting they have the right to move forces anywhere they want within their own country.
In his call with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto on December 14, Putin "reiterated the need to immediately launch negotiations with the United States and NATO in order to develop international legal guarantees for the security of our country," the Kremlin said in a statement.
The two also discussed the crisis over Ukraine, the statement added.
Separately, the Kremlin said Putin told his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, in a phone call on the same day that Moscow wanted immediate talks with Western countries to prevent NATO's expansion further east.
Amid fears of a possible invasion, Ukrainian officials say more than 90,000 Russian troops have been deployed along its border -- including on the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized by force from Ukraine in 2014. Maxar Technologies, a satellite-imaging company, has released photographs that show the Russian troop buildup.
"The Russian president emphasized the importance of immediately launching international negotiations to develop legally fixed guarantees that would prevent any further NATO expansion to the east and the deployment of weapons to neighboring states, primarily in Ukraine, that threaten Russia," the Kremlin said in a statement.
Putin made similar demands during virtual talks with U.S. President Joe Biden last week and in a phone call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on December 13.
European Union foreign ministers met on December 13 in Brussels to coordinate a sanctions response against Moscow if it launches a new military invasion of Ukraine.
The EU has already imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia over its forcible seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region in March 2014 and over Moscow's backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine in an ongoing conflict that has killed more than 13,200 people since April 2014.
Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometer border with Russia, is not a member of NATO, but has in recent years increased its bilateral defense and military cooperation with the United States and its neighbors Sweden and Norway.
Last week, the Finnish government agreed to buy 64 Lockheed Martin F-35A fighter jets to replace its aging fleet of combat planes in a 10 billion euro ($11.3 billion) deal -- the country's largest-ever military purchase.
With reporting by AFP and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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