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Ukrainian reservists and civilians take part in training with the Territorial Defence Forces just outside the capital city of Kyiv yesterday Alamy Stock Photo

Russia says it wants 'respectful' ties with US

The move is part of efforts to deter Moscow from invading Ukraine.

LAST UPDATE | 30 Jan 2022

RUSSIA HAS SAID it wants “mutually respectful” relations with the United States and has denied posing a threat to Ukraine, as the UK and the US said they were preparing fresh sanctions against Moscow.

Tensions have soared between Moscow and Washington after Western governments accused Russia of amassing tens of thousands of troops on its border with ex-Soviet Ukraine.

The military build-up has sparked fears that Russia is planning an invasion, spooking NATO and its members in the region and prompting the Western alliance to explore bolstering its own deployments there.

“We want good, equal, mutually respectful relations with the United States, like with every country in the world,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian TV on Sunday.

He added, however, that Russia does not want to remain in a position “where our security is infringed daily”.

Citing the encroachment of NATO near its eastern border, Russia has put forward security demands to Washington and the US-led military alliance.

These include a guarantee that NATO will not admit new members, in particular Ukraine, and the United States will not establish new military bases in ex-Soviet countries.

Russia has also demanded a pullback of NATO forces deployed to eastern European and ex-Soviet countries that joined the alliance after the Cold War.


Western leaders have scrambled to defuse the crisis by reaching out to Russian President Vladimir Putin, while also vowing unprecedented sanctions should Moscow launch an attack.

Top US Senate leaders said on Sunday they are close to reaching bipartisan agreement on a sanctions bill that would “crush” Russia’s economy if it sends troops into Ukraine.

Senator Bob Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said it was crucial that the United States send a clear message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that any such aggression is unacceptable.

“We cannot have a Munich moment again,” he said on CNN. “Putin will not stop with Ukraine.”

The legislation, he said, was near-complete: on the “one-yard line.”

Those stark comments came as Britain was completing its own sanctions package, one that Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Sunday would leave Russia with “nowhere to hide.”

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis have continued, but fears are mounting amid an ongoing buildup that has placed more than 100,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders.

Menendez appeared together with the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations committee, Senator James Risch, in an apparent show of bipartisan determination.

Risch said a bipartisan coalition of senators had been making a “24-hour-a-day” effort to complete a sanctions bill that could persuade Putin that an invasion would carry extraordinarily high costs.

“It’s going to be extremely painful,” Risch said.

“This is not the same as Crimea,” when Russian troops invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, he added. “There is substantially, substantially more worldwide opposition.”

He warned that no one should take the sanctions threat lightly, saying that because of Russia’s heavy involvement in the energy sector, an invasion of Ukraine would ultimately “have a devastating effect on the economy around the world when it comes to the price of gasoline”.

Despite the show of comity between Menendez and Risch, there has been debate on the timing of a sanctions package, with some Republicans saying it should take force now, while some Democrats want to hold the threat in abeyance.

“There are some sanctions that really could take place up front because of what Russia has already done: cyber attacks on Ukraine, false flag operations, the efforts to undermine the Ukrainian government internally,” Menendez said.

But, he added, “the devastating sanctions that ultimately would crush Russia would come later on when he invades.”

As talks aimed at defusing the crisis continued in several capitals, the US ambassador to the United Nations emphasized Sunday that a diplomatic solution is still possible.

In talks with all parties, said Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, “we have made clear that we’re prepared to address our concerns, Ukrainian concerns and Russian concerns at the diplomatic table. But it cannot be done on the battlefield.”

She was echoing a message sent two days earlier by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

“Conflict is not inevitable,” he said. “There is still time and space for diplomacy. Mr. Putin can do the right thing.”

‘We don’t want war’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on the West to avoid stirring “panic” in the face of the Russian troop build-up, while Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said it was important to remain “firm” in talks with Moscow.

Putin on Friday held a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Boris Johnson is expected to speak with the Russian leader next week.

Russia has repeatedly denied planning an attack and said it is not looking to start a war.

“We don’t want war. We don’t need it at all,” Nikolai Patrushev, head of Russia’s powerful Security Council, told reporters on Sunday.

He added that Russia poses no threat to Ukraine.

“Even the Ukrainians, including officials say there is no threat,” Patrushev said.

Several Western officials are expected to visit Ukraine in the coming days, including French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock and Polish Prime Minster Mateusz Morawiecki.

Canada’s Defence Minister Anita Anand arrived for a two-day visit to Kyiv Sunday after her government announced it will extend its ongoing training mission in Ukraine and sent non-lethal supplies, such as bulletproof vests.

Following a flurry of diplomatic efforts over the past weeks, Washington and NATO presented Moscow with a written response to its security demands.

Russia said the replies, which were not made public, did not address its main concerns but did not rule out further talks.

Ukraine has turned increasingly to the West since Moscow seized the Crimea peninsula in 2014 and began fuelling a separatist conflict in the east of the country that has claimed over 13,000 lives.

© AFP 2022 

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