Russian foreign minister wants "intensifying" Ukraine talks
Diplomatic efforts with the West to end the crisis over Ukraine "are far from exhausted" and should be continued, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told President Vladimir Putin during a televised meeting in Moscow on Monday.
Why it matters: The U.S. has repeatedly said that, based on its intelligence, a Russia invasion of Ukraine could happen "at any time."
What they're saying: During Monday's meeting, which appeared carefully scripted, Putin questioned Lavrov on whether negotiations with the West over Russia's security concerns were nearing an agreement or were being dragged out to no end.
- "We have already warned more than once that we will not allow endless negotiations on questions that demand a solution today," Lavrov responded, per Reuters. But, he said, "I must say there are always chances."
- “I believe that our possibilities are far from exhausted,” Lavrov said, referring to negotiations with the West. “I would propose continuing and intensifying them.”
The big picture: Among its demands, Russia has requested that NATO guarantee that Ukraine will never be allowed to join the defensive alliance.
- U.S. and NATO rejected that demand, saying that countries should be allowed to determine their own security arrangements, but they made concessions on other issues, such as arms control and increased transparency around military exercises.
- The Kremlin has yet to formally respond to those answers, though it did say Russia's primary concerns were "ignored."
Though Russia has denied that it has plans to invade Ukraine, it has continued to amass troops and military equipment near Ukraine's borders.
- The U.S. now estimates Russia currently has around 130,000 troops near Ukraine's borders.
- Russia and Belarus last week launched massive joint military exercises, while at least six Russian warships headed to the Black Sea for naval drills.
- President Biden spoke to Putin on Saturday and warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would have "severe economic costs" for the Kremlin and "irrevocable reputational damage caused by taking innocent lives for a bloody war."
- Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba by phone Monday that "although the United States’ immediate priority is to support efforts to de-escalate the situation, any further military aggression by Russia against Ukraine will be met with a swift, coordinated, and forceful response," according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price.