Addressing the Ukraine crisis for the first time since December, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Tuesday that the US and Nato had “ignored” Russian concerns in their responses to Kremlin demands.
The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told reporters that Russian officials were still drafting a formal response to American security proposals aimed at de-escalating the Ukraine crisis, and that they would be ready as soon as Putin “sees fit”.
But Putin, at a news conference with Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, said it was clear “that the principal Russian concerns turned out to be ignored”.
The Kremlin has demanded that Nato not expand eastward, guaranteeing that Ukraine will never join the alliance, and that Nato draw down forces in Eastern European countries that were once part of the Soviet Union or under its domination. American and European officials have dismissed such demands as non-starters.
Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, and could be preparing for an invasion, US officials have warned.
Putin last addressed the issue on December 23, when he took a combative tone at his annual news conference in response to a British journalist who asked whether he would guarantee that Russia would not invade Ukraine.
“It was the United States that came with its missiles to our home, to the doorstep of our home,” Putin said. “And you demand from me some guarantees. You should give us guarantees. You! And right away, right now.”
Amid the mixed messaging, Russia has continued to mass troops around Ukraine, including in Belarus to the north. Russia says the troops gathering in Belarus will be taking part in snap military exercises from February 10-20.
The US and Nato submitted written responses to Russia’s demands last week. Russian officials said afterward that Putin was studying the responses. He warned in December that Russia would take unspecified “military-technical” measures if the West did not satisfy those demands.
Putin’s meeting on Tuesday with Orban was part of a flurry of diplomacy aimed at defusing the crisis. Before meeting the Hungarian leader, Putin spoke by telephone to Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, who warned that a “worsening of the crisis” would produce “serious consequences”.
New York Times News Service