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Putin says West has 'ignored' Russia's security concerns

February 1, 2022

The Russian president said a solution to the crisis is "not simple" but confirmed the Kremlin is open to more talks as tensions rise over Ukraine. The comments came after he met Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking to the media during a joint news conference with Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban
Putin said he hoped for more dialogue on Ukraine in order to avoid "negative scenarios"Image: Yuri Kochetkov/AP Photo/picture alliance

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that the West had "ignored" Moscow's security concerns in his first public remarks over the Ukraine standoff in more than a month.

Last week the US and NATO responded to the Kremlin's calls for legally binding security guarantees.

However, Putin believes Russia's requests have fallen on deaf ears. He told reporters: "We are carefully analyzing the written responses received from the United States and NATO."

"But it is already clear that fundamental Russian concerns ended up being ignored," he said, before adding the Kremlin is still poring over the US and NATO's feedback.

"I hope that in the end we will find a solution, although it will not be simple," Putin said, indicating he was ready for more talks with the West, which has accused Russia of amassing more than 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine ahead of a planned invasion of its neighbor.

"It seems to me that the United States is not so much concerned about the security of Ukraine but its main task is to contain Russia's development," Putin said. 

"In this sense Ukraine itself is just a tool to reach this goal," he said.

Putin added that French President Emmanuel Macron could come to Moscow for talks "in the near future."

Hungary's Orban meets Putin despite opposition

Putin made the comments after holding talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Though "substantial" the differences between the West and Moscow on the Ukraine crisis are "bridgeable," Orban said in a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart. 

"It is possible to make such an agreement that both guarantees peace and Russia's security, and that is also acceptable for NATO members," he added, stressing that no European leader wants a war in the region.

Orban's arrival in Moscow on Tuesday heralded the first in-person meeting with Putin from an EU leader since the Ukraine crisis escalated. Ahead of the trip, Hungarian opposition leaders jointly appealed to Orban to cancel the visit as it was "contrary to our national interests."

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban hold a meeting at the Moscow Kremlin
Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin making him the first EU leader to do so since the Ukraine crisis began to escalateImage: Mikhail Klimentyev/Russian President Press Office/dpa/picture alliance

US: Russia should pull back troops if it has no invasion plans

Meanwhile, earlier on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Russian opposite number Sergei Lavrov in a phone call that Moscow should pull back its troops from the border with Ukraine if it's not intending to invade, a senior State Department official told reporters.

Blinken and Lavrov held a "professional and fairly candid" conversation in English, the official said. "We continue to hear assurances that Russia is not planning to invade, but certainly every action we see says otherwise, with the continued build-up of troops, heavy weapons, moving to the border," the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

"If President Putin truly does not intend war or regime change, the Secretary told Foreign Minister Lavrov then this is the time to pull back troops and heavy weaponry and engage in a serious discussion that can enhance collective European security," the official added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy offered a similar to view to Blinken over the threat posed by Russia. "We are waiting for Russia to pull the troops back from our border,'' Zelenskyy said. "That would be an important signal, and the only true answer to a question whether Russia is going to continue the escalation or not.''

The Ukrainian president signed a decree on Tuesday expanding the country's army by 100,000 troops, bringing the total number to 350,000 over the next three years, while also vowing to increase their salaries.

Putin 'holding a gun to Ukraine's head,' says Johnson

In a show of support for Ukraine, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki were both in Kyiv for talks with Zelenskyy on Tuesday. 

Johnson accused Putin of "intimidating" Ukraine in a bid to force the West into redrawing the post-Cold War security map of Europe. He said Russia was jeopardizing security by carving out spheres of influence that would again divide Europe, rolling back the freedoms gained after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

"He is trying, by holding a gun as it were to the head of Ukraine, to get us to change the way we look at something that was absolutely fantastic," Johnson said in Kyiv.

Morawiecki promised to deliver more ammunition and weapons to Ukraine, including anti-aircraft systems and reconnaissance drones.

After canceling a call with Putin on Monday due to an outpouring of anger over parties at the heart of the British government while the country was in a coronavirus lockdown, Johnson said he would speak to the Russian president on Wednesday.

Johnson dismissed suggestions that the West might be exaggerating the Russian threat, warning that Britain would impose sanctions on Russian strategic commercial interests and individuals if it invaded Ukraine.

jsi, kb/nm (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)