The Kremlin says Russia's concerns on security guarantees have not been taken into account by the United States in its written response to recent demands by Moscow, though room exists to continue dialogue with Washington over the issue.
In its answers, the United States rejected Moscow's demand to bar Ukraine and Georgia from joining the NATO military alliance at some point, offering instead a 'serious diplomatic path' out of a crisis that has arisen around Russia's buildup of tens of thousands of troops near its border with Ukraine, which is being seen as a possible prelude to an incursion into the former Soviet republic.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington's response on January 26 repeated the West's commitment to maintaining NATO's 'open-door' policy while offering a 'principled and pragmatic' evaluation of the concerns that Moscow has raised.
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Blinken said the letter was fully coordinated with Ukraine and Washington's European allies and 'sets out a serious diplomatic path forward, should Russia choose it,' as the United States seeks to avert a military escalation against Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on January 27 that the U.S. response showed no 'willingness' to accommodate Russia's concerns.
'Based on what our colleagues said yesterday, it's absolutely clear that on the main categories outlined in those draft documents...we cannot say that our thoughts have been taken into account or that a willingness has been shown to take our concerns into account,' Peskov said. 'But we won't rush with our assessments.'
In separate comments, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia's main demand -- that Ukraine will not join NATO -- had been ignored, but that it would be possible to move forward on other issues.
Russia, which denies it is planning to invade Ukraine, has said it sees NATO as a security threat and is demanding legal guarantees that the Western military alliance will not further expand eastward, including to countries such as Ukraine and Georgia, which the Kremlin feels are in its sphere of influence.
'There was no positive response to the main question,' Lavrov said in a statement, but 'there is a response, which gives hope for the start of a serious conversation on secondary questions.'
Blinken said he would speak to Lavrov in the coming days for Moscow's response to the U.S. stance. But Peskov said on January 27 there was 'no agreement yet' on a new meeting between the two top diplomats.
Moscow's reaction came as Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the number of Russian troops near the border with Ukraine continued to grow.
Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine, according to Western intelligence, and has been holding a series of land and sea military exercises. Last week, Ukrainian intelligence officials put the number at 127,000.
Kuleba, speaking at a press briefing in Copenhagen on January 27, warned that if Russia, which illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014, decided to attack, Kyiv 'will fight back' this time.
Moscow also backs separatist fighters in an ongoing war in eastern Ukraine that has claimed more than 13,200 lives since April 2014. SEE ALSO: The West Sounds The Alarm On Russia. Ukraine Sends A Different Message: Keep Calm And Carry On.
After meeting in Paris on January 26, advisers to the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany reaffirmed in a joint statement their commitment to uphold a cease-fire agreed in the Minsk accords aimed at putting an end to the conflict in the east.
Although there was no breakthrough in the talks, held under the so-called Normandy format, the countries promised to meet for new talks in two weeks in Berlin, which Kuleba called a sign Russia is likely to remain on a diplomatic path at least for the short term.
'The good news is that advisers agreed to meet in Berlin in two weeks, which means that Russia for the next two weeks is likely to remain on the diplomatic track,' he said following a meeting with his Danish counterpart, Jeppe Kofod.
Kuleba's statements came after French President Emmanuel Macron said he has scheduled a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin for January 28 in which he is expected to seek clarification over Russia's intentions.
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