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Vladimir Putin speaks to the media during in a new conference with Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban Yuri Kochetkov/PA Images

Vladimir Putin accuses West of 'ignoring Russia's fundamental concerns' about Ukraine

The Russian president was speaking last night.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR Putin last night accused the US of trying to draw his country into a war in Ukraine and ignoring its security concerns.

In comments last night, Putin said the West was using Ukraine as a tool to contain Russia, but added that he hoped a solution could be found to end ongoing tensions in eastern Europe.

Tensions between Russia and the West have reached levels not seen since the end of the Cold War after Moscow massed more than 100,000 troops near its borders with Ukraine.

Western leaders have accused Moscow of preparing an invasion of Ukraine, which has adopted a pro-Western stance in recent years, and warned of severe consequences if this happens.

Russia insists it has no plans to attack and has instead has tabled its own proposals which it says would ease tensions.

Speaking after a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Moscow yesterday, Putin said the Kremlin was studying a response from Washington and NATO to Russia’s security demands, but that it had been far from adequate.

They were his first public remarks for weeks on the crisis.

“It is already clear that fundamental Russian concerns ended up being ignored,” Putin told reporters.

He repeated Russia’s demands for legally binding security guarantees against further NATO expansion and the deployment of strike facilities near Russia’s borders, as well as for NATO’s return to military positions from before 1997.

“It seems to me that the United States is not so much concerned about the security of Ukraine,” he said. “The main task is to contain Russia’s development.”

“Ukraine itself is just a tool to achieve this goal,” Putin added. “This can be done in different ways. Drawing us into some kind of armed conflict. And to force, among other things, their allies in Europe to impose the tough sanctions against us that the United States is talking about.”

But the Russian leader indicated he was ready for more talks with the West.

“I hope that in the end we will find a solution, although it will not be simple,” Putin said.

‘Clear and present danger’

Earlier yesterday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday urged Russia to “immediately” de-escalate tensions and withdraw its troops in a call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Lavrov said Washington had agreed in the call to further discussions on Moscow’s demands.

“Let’s see how things go,” he said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson jetted into Kyiv to hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as part of a Western diplomatic offensive.

“It is vital that Russia steps back and chooses a path of diplomacy, and I believe that is still possible,” Johnson said at a press conference with Zelensky after the talks, calling Russian forces a “clear and present danger” for Ukraine.

After his meeting with Putin in Moscow, Orban also suggested a solution was possible.

“The situation is serious, the differences are substantial,” Orban told the press conference with Putin. “But the existing differences in positions are bridgeable.”

Orban, one of Putin’s few allies among NATO and EU leaders, made the trip to Moscow in defiance of opposition parties who said it went against the country’s national interests.

Putin said that French President Emmanuel Macron – who spoke to the Russian leader for the second time in four days on Monday – could come to Moscow for talks “in the near future”.

Western leaders have repeatedly warned of “severe consequences” if Russia does invade, including wide-ranging and damaging economic sanctions.

 - © AFP 2022

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