The first round of international talks with Russia aimed at de-escalating the situation near Ukraine’s borders, as well as discussing the Kremlin’s ultimate demands for “security guarantees” in Europe, took place in Geneva. The talks lasted more than seven hours.

According to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the Russian Federation did not respond directly to calls for de-escalation on the border with Ukraine.

“They [Russians] can prove that they have no intention [to invade Ukraine] by de-escalating and returning troops to barracks,” Sherman added.

She also stressed that Washington was “firm in pushing back on security proposals that are simply non-starters for the United States,” including Russia’s demands not to admit Ukraine to NATO and to suspend NATO–Ukraine cooperation altogether.

“I fully expect that at the NATO-Russia Council and the OSCE [meetings] this week, Russia will hear a consistent message from the United States and from our allies and partners that it is on Russia to de-escalate tensions so that we have a real chance at finding diplomatic solutions,” said the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State.

At the same time, head of the Russian delegation Sergey Ryabkov said that Russia “has no intention of attacking Ukraine,” but the risk of military confrontation is high and the United States underestimates the seriousness of the situation.

“We explained to our American colleagues that we have no plans or intentions to attack Ukraine, and all combat training measures are being carried out within our national territory,” Ryabkov said.

He also added that the United States was not ready to address “security guarantees” “in a way that suits Russia.” In this context, the Russian diplomat called out, in particular, NATO’s non-expansion, non-deployment of missiles near Russia’s borders, and refusal to “involve” Kyiv in NATO.

As a reminder, the next rounds of talks with the Russian Federation are slated for 12 and 13 January in Brussels in the format of the NATO-Russia Council, as well as during the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna.

Bohdan Marusyak

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