US, Russia agree to return ‘next week’ on Ukraine crisis

Washington and Moscow’s top diplomats agreed at high-stakes talks today to keep working to ease tensions over Ukraine, with the United States promising a written response to Russian security demands next week, reports AFP.

As fears grow that Russia could invade its pro-Western neighbour, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sat down for 90 minutes of hastily-arranged talks in Geneva.

 

Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border, denying it plans to invade but demanding security guarantees, including a permanent ban on the country joining NATO.

Mr Blinken said after the talks that Washington will share written ideas with Russia next week, voicing hope for more diplomacy.

 

“We didn’t expect any major breakthroughs to happen today, but I believe we are now on a clear path in terms of understanding each other’s concerns and each other’s positions,” Mr Blinken told reporters.

“We anticipate that we will be able to share with Russia our concerns and ideas in more detail in writing next week and we agreed to further discussions after that,” he added.

 

“We ended up with an agreement that we will receive written responses to all our proposals next week,” Mr Lavrov said in a separate press conference.

“Antony Blinken agreed that we need to have a reasonable dialogue, and I hope emotions will decrease,” Mr Lavrov said.

 

“I cannot say whether or not we are on the right track. We will know when we get an answer,” Mr Lavrov said.

Russia, which already fuels a deadly insurgency in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014, has demanded guarantees that NATO never admit the former Soviet republic or expand otherwise in Moscow’s old sphere.

The United States has declared the idea a “non-starter” and accused Russia of undermining Europe’s post-Cold War order by bullying another country into submission.

Lawmakers in Russia’s parliament have presented a bill that would ask Mr Putin to recognise the independence of two pro-Moscow separatist territories in Ukraine, Donetsk and Lugansk.

Ukraine’s military intelligence service today accused Russia of sending fresh arms and equipment to the rebels since the start of this month, including tanks, artillery and ammunition.

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