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Russia not hopeful ahead of talks with US over Ukraine

January 9, 2022

Moscow has said it is "disappointed" with signals from the United States ahead of talks in Geneva, where the two sides are set to discuss the crisis at the Ukrainian border.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov speaks against a red background
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has said Moscow is ruling out concessions with regards to UkraineImage: Maxim Shemetov/REUTERS

Russia is not optimistic ahead of the planned talks with the United States and other NATO members over the tensions at the Ukrainian border, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Sunday.

Speaking with the Interfax news agency, Ryabkov said it would be "naive" to expect "progress, let alone quick progress."

The Russian diplomat is expected to take part in the scheduled summit in Geneva on Monday. The Russian delegation reportedly arrived in Switzerland on Sunday afternoon.

Ryabkov is set to meet with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Sunday evening ahead of the talks.

The Kremlin has made a series of demands regarding Ukraine's relationship with NATO and NATO's expansion in Eastern Europe. In response, Washington has made clear that many of those demands are non-starters. On Sunday, Russia reduced any possible optimism about a possible resolution of the situation, saying it would not back down.

"We will not agree to any concession. That is completely excluded," said Ryabkov. "We are disappointed with the signals coming in the last few days from Washington but also from Brussels."

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken likewise took to the airwaves to lower expectations ahead of the talks.

"I don't think we're going to see any breakthroughs in the coming week," Blinken told CNN.

Biden, Putin discuss Ukraine tensions

Why are Russian and US diplomats meeting?

High-level talks in Geneva, where Russian representatives are set to meet delegations from NATO and the Organization for Security and Operation in Europe, aim to ease the tensions at the Ukrainian-Russian border. Russia has amassed troops at its border with Ukraine, prompting fears of a full-scale invasion.

The Kremlin has been pushing for an assurance that Ukraine will never be given membership to NATO — an alliance set up to counter the influence of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe during the Cold War.

While there is no process underway to bring Kyiv into the alliance, the US and NATO have rejected attempts by Moscow to dictate Ukraine's foreign policy.

What consequences is Russia facing?

On Sunday, Blinken laid out the choices faced by Russia.

"There's a path of dialogue and diplomacy to try to resolve some of these differences and avoid a confrontation," he said on CNN.

US President Joe Biden held two phone calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin in previous weeks.

Biden warned his Russian counterpart of serious consequences, should Moscow invade Ukraine again, after annexing the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. A possible response could include further sanctions, canceling the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea or even cutting Russia off from the global banking network.

The US is also considering sending more NATO troops to the ex-Soviet states in the Baltics, which have since joined NATO, according to a report by the AFP news agency. In addition, Washington is mulling sending reinforcements to other NATO members in Eastern Europe, the report said.

Moscow has increased its pressure on Kyiv since the revolution in 2014 that toppled the Moscow-friendly administration. Russian troops are believed to have been supporting separatists in the country's east ever since.

ab, ar/dj, wd (AFP, Reuters, Interfax)