Tensions between Russia and Ukraine dominated the traditional annual press conference by Vladirmir Putin, which takes place this Thursday. The Russian President stressed that the country does not want a conflict due to the situation in Ukraine, but accuses NATO of “treason” for seeking to expand to countries close to Moscow’s sphere and demands “immediate guarantees” on eastward enlargements.
“We don’t want a conflict over Ukraine. (…) It is not our preferred decision, we do not want this situation”, said Vladimir Putin.
The Russian President also confirmed that he has received a “positive reaction” from the United States on the negotiation attempts and that talks are due to start early next year in Geneva.
The statement is in line with what the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, had already said on Tuesday about the start of bilateral negotiations between Moscow and Washington.
In recent weeks, the United States and Western allies have accused Russia of preparing a military action against Kiev, with the deployment of 100,000 soldiers and military resources to the border with Ukraine, accusations that Moscow has always denied.
With an open door to diplomacy, the Russian leader highlights, however, the constant “betrayals” of NATO against Russia, in “five waves of expansion” of the Atlantic Alliance in the expansion to the east after the Cold War.
“Not an inch to the east, that’s what we were told in the 1990s. Now what? They’ve betrayed us, vehemently and blatantly. NATO is expanding. They’re in Poland and they have weapons in that territory. Now they say that they also want Ukraine. This means that they will have weapons in that country, even if it does not officially belong to NATO,” accused Putin.
“We must be assured, and immediately,” stressed the Russian President.
Last week, Russia unveiled a draft of a potential agreement with NATO, requiring the Atlantic Alliance to remove all military and infrastructure installed in European countries that joined the alliance after 1997, which includes countries that joined the Warsaw Pact or even though they were part of the former Soviet Union.
“We just pose directly the question that there should be no further NATO moves to the east, the ball is in their court,” the Russian President said.
Regarding the situation on the ground in eastern Ukraine, the Russian President argues that it is the people of Donbass, in the east of the country, who must “decide their future”. For days, Putin denounced “Russophobia” and a situation close to “genocide” precisely in Donbass.
“We see our role as mediators in creating better conditions to determine the future of the people who live in this territory”, stressed the Russian President.
However, for Vladimir Putin, the existence of good relations between Moscow and the current government in Kiev is “impossible”, as Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskiy is under the influence of “radical forces”.
The Donbass region, referred to by the Russian President, has been in conflict since 2014, following the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia, after a referendum that was not recognized by much of the international community. Situated in the far east of Ukraine, Donbass remains the scene of a clash between Kiev and separatist rebel leaders.
In seven years of clashes between Kiev troops and pro-Russian separatists, at least 13,000 people have died. In this conflict, Russia is considered the main military and financial supporter of the separatist rebels in that region, but it always refuses any involvement. It points, however, to the strong discrimination of the pro-Russian and Russian-speaking population in these territories by the Ukrainian authorities.
Source: With Agencies