Putin wants ‘immediate’ talks with NATO as Ukraine tension intensifies

Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto that he wants “immediate” talks with the United States and NATO over security guarantees, the Kremlin said, as tensions mounted over Ukraine.

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 readout of the call.

It said Russia’s demands included stopping NATO from expanding east and the deployment of weapons in neighboring states, including Ukraine.

Putin also accused the Ukrainian leadership of increasingly using “heavy weapons and attack drones” against pro-Russia rebels in its separatist east.

His comments come as the West has for weeks accused Russia of planning an invasion of Ukraine and massing tens of thousands of troops near its neighbor’s border.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that Moscow will insist on Western guarantees precluding NATO’s expansion to Ukraine.

Putin has denied plans of launching an attack but prodded Western leaders to provide a legal pledge that NATO wouldn’t expand to Ukraine.

Russia has responded to the ouster of Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly president by annexing the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and throwing its support behind a separatist insurgency in the country’s east. More than seven years of fighting has killed over 14,000 people and devastated Ukraine’s industrial heartland called Donbas.

In a call with Johnson, Putin emphasized the need to “immediately begin negotiations to work out clear international legal agreements that would exclude any further NATO’s expansion eastward and the deployment of weapons threatening Russia in neighboring countries, primarily in Ukraine.” (Firstpost)

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