A top Russian diplomat on Thursday said there is no point in further Ukraine talks as European leaders warn of the risk of war.
Speaking on Russian television, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said there are “no grounds” in continuing dialogue between Russia and Ukraine, in a clip viewed by the Washington Post.
“There is, to a certain extent, a dead end or a difference in approaches,” Ryabkov said, adding that the US and allies have rejected Russian demands.
The Russian diplomat also said that he does “not see reasons to sit down in the coming days, to gather again and start these same discussions” without US flexibility.
Ryabkov’s remarks come after NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Wednesday that there’s a “real risk” of “armed conflict” in Europe.
Stoltenberg said NATO is “ready” to discuss arms control, among other issues, with Russia as a way to try and deescalate tensions on Ukraine’s eastern border.
But, Stoltenberg warned, if Russia decides to use military force, “there will be severe consequences.”
Zbigniew Rau, Poland’s foreign minister and the chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), issued a similarly dire warning in his address to the OSCE meeting on Thursday.
“It seems that the risk of war in the OSCE area is now greater than ever before in the last 30 years,” Rau said. “For several weeks we have been faced with the prospect of a major military escalation in eastern Europe.”
US Ambassador to the OSCE Mike Carpenter in comments to reporters described the Ukraine tensions as a “crisis in European security.”
“The drumbeat of war is sounding loud, and the rhetoric has gotten rather shrill,” Carpenter said.
The OSCE meeting in Vienna marked the third round of discussions in Europe this week surrounding the Ukraine crisis.
A US and Russian delegation met for talks on Monday, followed by a meeting between NATO and Russian envoys on Wednesday.
Russia in recent weeks has gathered a sizable force of tens of thousands of troops along Ukraine’s border. The Kremlin claims it has no plans to invade, but Western leaders are skeptical.
In 2014, Russia invaded and annexed Crimea from Ukraine, and since that year has supported separatists in a war against Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donbass region. Experts say that Russian President Vladimir Putin views Ukraine as “unfinished business.” The US has warned Russia it could face major economic consequences if it invades.
On Tuesday, Russia held live-fire drills involving tanks and troops near Ukraine’s border.
“When live fire exercises are reported this morning. What is this about?” Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told a Wednesday news conference, per CNN. “Is this about invasion? Is this about intimidation? Is this about trying to be subversive? I don’t know. But it is not conducive to getting diplomatic solutions.”
Top US officials and Russia watchers have expressed concerns that Russia plans to use the diplomatic talks as a pretext for war.
Russia has continued to make demands for binding security agreements that the US and NATO have dismissed as non-starters, including that Ukraine and Georgia be barred from ever joining the alliance.
“Russia most of all will have to decide whether they really are about security, in which case they should engage, or whether this was all a pretext, and they may not even know yet,” Sherman said.
Credit: Yahoo News