President Putin wants ‘immediate’ talks with NATO on Russia’s security

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Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto on Tuesday that he wants “immediate” talks with the United States and NATO over security guarantees, the Kremlin said, as tensions mount over Ukraine.

Putin “reiterated the need to immediately launch negotiations with the United States and NATO in order to develop international legal guarantees for the security of our country,” the Kremlin said in a readout of the call.

It said Russia’s demands included stopping NATO from expanding east and the deployment of weapons in neighboring states, including Ukraine.

Putin also accused the Ukrainian leadership of increasingly using “heavy weapons and attack drones” against pro-Russia rebels in its separatist east.

His comments come as the West has for weeks accused Russia of planning an invasion of Ukraine and massing tens of thousands of troops near its neighbor’s border.

Putin has denied the plans, blaming NATO for heightened tensions in the region and seeking promises from the West that the alliance won’t expand eastwards.

In a video call last week, US President Joe Biden warned Putin of “sanctions like he’s never seen” should Russian troops launch an attack.

On Monday, EU foreign ministers met to coordinate what they warn would be an unprecedented economic sanctions regime if Russia attacks Ukraine.

The meeting followed a gathering of G7 ministers in Liverpool at the weekend, where the US and major allies also warned the Kremlin of “massive” consequences.”

Finland has traditionally served as a middle ground between Moscow and the West. Putin met with former US President Donald Trump in the Finnish capital Helsinki in 2018.

AFP

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