Russia hints at a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Ukraine

Russia eases tension by giving diplomacy more time

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.Reuters photo

Lavrov’s comments indicate that Russia is not ready to invade Ukraine anytime soon. Instead, the Kremlin is keeping the door open for Western concessions. The United States has warned since Friday, based on classified intelligence, that Russia could begin “any moment” with “a very large military action in Ukraine”.

The conversation between Putin and Lavrov was broadcast on Russian state television on Monday and appeared in stages – and the Kremlin’s internal deliberations on Ukraine are usually not made public. Putin asked his foreign minister whether there was still a chance to conclude agreements with Western countries on Russia’s security requirements. Lavrov said that the negotiations “should not continue indefinitely”, but indicated that “they will continue and intensify at this stage.” Putin reacted coldly with the word “good.”

Lavrov also said that pressure on Ukraine and the West had yielded results for Russia. For example, according to Lavrov, the United States made “concrete proposals” to reduce military risks and there is now “a readiness in the West to enter into serious negotiations”. However, he deplored the fact that Russia’s most ambitious demands, such as the withdrawal of NATO from Eastern Europe and the ban on Ukraine’s accession to NATO, were not being met.

Defense Minister Shoigu later hinted to Putin about a military de-escalation. He said some “large-scale Russian military exercises” had ended or would soon end.

Ten-sided letter

Russia has announced that it will soon send a 10-page letter to the United States and NATO. In it, the Kremlin responds to Western countries’ responses to Russia’s security demands. The message also appears to be a step toward diplomacy, not military action.

But Western countries still fear that Putin may have other intentions. German Chancellor Schulz said in Kiev on Monday that there were “no plausible reasons” for the massive build-up of Russian forces in northern, eastern and southern Ukraine. British Prime Minister Johnson described the situation as “extremely dangerous”. The French foreign minister also warned that the Russian army was ready to attack.

Ukraine is calling for a meeting with Russia and other members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Tuesday where Russia will explain military activities on Ukraine’s borders. Russia ignored a written request for an explanation last weekend.

Despite this, the Ukrainian government says that the security situation in the country is “totally under control”, despite the “existing risks”. President Zelensky declared next Wednesday “National Unity Day” and asked residents to take to the streets on that day with Ukrainian flags. The United States had previously mentioned Wednesday as a possible day for a Russian attack.

recognition of separatist republics

Zelensky failed to calm everyone down. Ukrainian oligarchs left the country on private planes. The United States is also now evacuating the last remaining employees of its embassy in Kiev and moving them to the Ukrainian city of Lviv near the Polish border, according to US media. Western intelligence services fed the media on Monday with new warnings, this time about sending signals to Russian mercenaries in Ukraine, who wish to destabilize the country.

Western countries are also anxiously awaiting the postponed vote in the Russian parliament on Tuesday. The Kremlin-led parliament is then scheduled to vote on proposals to recognize two separatist republics in eastern Ukraine. Recognition would mean the end of a years-long international peace process and the de facto annexation of parts of eastern Ukraine.

But Russia does not appear to be in a hurry about this decision either: Putin’s party has proposed voting in favor of the motion in which parliament first quietly seeks advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This means that diplomats do not have a chance yet.

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