Russia hands draft security pacts to US, expects quick talks

AP International

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with members of the Presidential Council for Strategic Development and National Projects via teleconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin said Thursday that Russia submitted draft documents outlining security arrangements it wants to negotiate with the United States and its NATO allies amid s piraling tensions over Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said a senior Russian envoy stood ready to immediately depart for talks in a neutral country on the proposal.

Peskov told reporters that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have another call with U.S. President Joe Biden before the year’s end to discuss the security issue, but he said it hasn’t been agreed to yet.

In a video call with Putin last week, Biden voiced concern about a buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine and warned him that Russia would face “severe consequences” if Moscow attacked its neighbor.

Putin has denied plansof launching an invasion and reversed the conversation by prodding Western leaders to provide legally binding guarantees precluding NATO’s expansion to Ukraine and the deployment of the alliance’s weapons there, calling such actions a “red line” for Moscow.

The U.S. and its allies have refused to provide such pledges, but Biden and Putin agreed last week on further talks to discuss Russia’s concerns.

Peskov said Thursday that Russia has submitted drafts of a treaty and an agreement to the United States, but he refused to specify what specific arrangements they contained and who could be the signatories.

He said Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, discussed the Russian drafts with U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan during a call Wednesday, and that Moscow was ready to start negotiations.

Moscow’s proposals were passed on to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried, who visited Moscow on Wednesday and met with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

Ryabkov would be ready to depart for talks on prospective agreements in a neutral country, Peskov said without giving details.

Speaking last week, Ryabkov warned that the failure to stem mounting Russia-West tensions could push them to a showdown similar to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis that put the world on the verge of a nuclear war.

A European Union summit on Thursday was set to focus on avoiding a Russian military invasion in Ukraine with threats of unprecedented sanctions for Moscow and the promise of diplomatic talks.

U.S. intelligence officials say Russia has moved 70,000 troops to its border with Ukraine and is preparing for a possible invasion early next year. Moscow has denied an intention to attack and accused Ukrainian authorities of planning an offensive to reclaim control of rebel-held eastern Ukraine — an allegation Ukraine has rejected.

Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine began after Russia’s 2014 annexation of UKraine’s Crimean Peninsula. It has killed over 14,000 people and devastated Ukraine’s industrial heartland called Donbas.

Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of sending troops and weapons into eastern Ukraine to back up separatists, but Moscow denied the accusations, charging that Russians who fought in the east were there on their own as volunteers.

A recent ruling by a district court in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, located near the border with Ukraine, challenged Moscow’s denials. The city’s Kirov District Court last week found a local businessman guilty of offering a military officer bribes to procure contracts to supply food to Russian troops deployed to eastern Ukraine.

The verdict, posted on the court’s website, said a convoy of 70 trucks delivered 1,300 metric tons (1,433 tons) of food supplies once every two weeks in 2018-2019 to the separatist-controlled areas of Ukraine.

The supplies, which were worth an equivalent of about $1.8 million, included canned food, flour and fresh vegetables and were intended “for units of the Russian armed forces” deployed “on combat duty” to the rebel-held territory, according to the verdict.

Asked to comment on the court’s findings, Kremlin spokesman Peskov reaffirmed a strong denial of any Russian troops presence in the rebel-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine, saying the judge who wrote the ruling must have made an error.

“It’s probably a mistake by those who wrote it,” Peskov said. “It’s impossible – there are no Russian troops on the territory of self-proclaimed republics, and there haven’t been any. The Russian troops stay on the territory of the Russian Federation.”

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