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Russia: US Response on Ukraine Lacking 01/27 06:14

   The U.S. rejection of Russia's main demands to resolve the crisis over 
Ukraine leaves little ground for optimism, the Kremlin spokesman said Thursday, 
while adding that dialogue was still possible.

   MOSCOW (AP) -- The U.S. rejection of Russia's main demands to resolve the 
crisis over Ukraine leaves little ground for optimism, the Kremlin spokesman 
said Thursday, while adding that dialogue was still possible.

   Tensions have soared in recent weeks, as the United States and its NATO 
allies expressed fear that a buildup of about 100,000 Russian troops near 
Ukraine signaled Moscow planned to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. Russia denies 
having any such designs -- and has laid out a series of demands it says will 
improve security in Europe.

   But as expected, the U.S. and the Western alliance firmly rejected any 
concessions on Moscow's main points Wednesday, refusing to permanently ban 
Ukraine from joining NATO and saying allied deployments of troops and military 
equipment in Eastern Europe are nonnegotiable. The U.S. did outline areas in 
which some of Russia's concerns might be addressed, possibly offering a path to 
de-escalation.

   "There is no change, there will be no change," U.S. Secretary of State 
Antony Blinken said, repeating the warning that any Russian incursion into 
Ukraine would be met with massive consequences and severe economic costs.

   All eyes are now on how Russia will respond amid fears that Europe could 
again be plunged into war. That decision that rests squarely with President 
Vladimir Putin.

   Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the response from the 
U.S. -- and a similar one from NATO -- leaves "little ground for optimism."

   At the same time, he added that "there always are prospects for continuing a 
dialogue, it's in the interests of both us and the Americans."

   Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that the U.S. response contains 
some elements that could lead to "the start of a serious talk on secondary 
issues" but emphasized that "the document contains no positive response on the 
main issue," the Russian demands for the non-expansion of NATO and the 
non-deployment of weapons that may threaten Russia.

   Lavrov told reporters that top officials will now submit their proposals to 
Putin, who has the American response, and Peskov said the Russian reaction 
would come soon.

   The evasive official comments reflect the fact that it's Putin who 
single-handedly determines Russia's next moves. The Russian leader has warned 
that he would order unspecified "military-technical measures" if the West 
refuses to heed the Russian security demands.

   Peskov added that Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden will decide whether 
they need to have another conversation following two calls last month.

   While the diplomacy sputters on, so, too, do maneuvers on both sides that 
have escalated tensions. Russia has launched a series of military drills: 
Motorized infantry and artillery units in southwestern Russia practiced firing 
live ammunition, warplanes in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea performed bombing 
runs, dozens of warships sailed for training exercises in the Black Sea and the 
Arctic, and Russian fighter jets and paratroopers arrived in Belarus for joint 
war games.

   Meanwhile, NATO said it was bolstering its deterrence in the Baltic Sea 
region, and the U.S. ordered 8,500 troops on higher alert for potential 
deployment to Europe.

   Amid the fears of Russian invasion in Ukraine, a top Putin associate alleged 
the country has become a Western tool to contain Russia.

   "Ukraine has become a toy in the hands of NATO and, primarily, the United 
States, which are using it as an instrument of geopolitical pressure against 
Russia," Dmitry Medvedev, a deputy head of Russia's Security Council, said in 
an interview with Russian media.

   He acknowledged that a Russia-NATO conflict "would be the most dramatic and 
simply catastrophic scenario, and I hope it will never happen."

   Medvedev argued that Moscow sees no point in talking to Ukrainian President 
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, but voiced hope that the Ukrainians would eventually 
become "weary of that bedlam and elect the leadership that would pursue 
policies ... aimed at normal economic relations with Russia."

   Medvedev's comment follows a British claim that the Kremlin is seeking to 
replace Ukraine's government with a pro-Moscow administration -- an allegation 
Russia denied.

   In 2014, following the ouster of a Kremlin-friendly president in Kyiv, 
Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and threw its weight behind a 
separatist insurgency in the country's eastern industrial heartland. Fighting 
between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels has killed over 14,000 
people, and efforts to reach a settlement have stalled.

   While a senior Russian diplomat has pointedly refused to rule out military 
deployments to Cuba and Venezuela, Medvedev expressed skepticism about such 
prospect.

   "Cuba and Venezuela are aiming to come out of isolation and restore normal 
relations with the U.S. to a certain extent, so there can't be any talk about 
setting up a base there as it happened during the Soviet times," he said.

 
 
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