Russian officials on Tuesday denied reports that Moscow sent Washington a written response to a US proposal aimed at deescalating the Ukraine crisis, a day after the two countries exchanged sharp accusations at the United Nations Security council.
The Kremlin is seeking legally binding guarantees from the US and NATO that Ukraine will never join the bloc, deployment of NATO weapons near Russian borders will be halted and the alliance’s forces will be rolled back from Eastern Europe.
The demands, rejected by NATO and the US as nonstarters, come amid fears that Russia might invade Ukraine, stoked the buildup of an estimated 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine’s borders. Talks between Russia and the West have so far failed to yield any progress.
Washington has provided Moscow with a written response to the demands, and on Monday three Biden administration officials said that the Russian government sent a written response to the US proposals. A State Department official has declined to offer details about the document, saying it “would be unproductive to negotiate in public” and that they would leave it up to Russia to discuss the counterproposal.
But Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko on Tuesday told Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency that this was “not true.”
The agency also cited an unnamed senior diplomat in the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sent a message to his Western colleagues, including US State Secretary Antony Blinken about “the principle of indivisibility of security,” but it wasn’t a response to Washington’s proposals.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday that there has been “confusion” and said that Russia’s response to the US proposals is still in the works. What was passed on to Western officials “were other considerations, on a somewhat different issue,” Peskov said. On Monday, Russia accused the West of “whipping up tensions” over Ukraine and said the US had brought “pure Nazis” to power in Kyiv as the UN Security Council held a stormy debate on Moscow’s troop buildup near its southern neighbor.
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield shot back that Russia’s growing military force along Ukraine’s borders was “the largest mobilization” in Europe in decades, adding that there has been a spike in cyberattacks and Russian disinformation.
The harsh exchanges in the Security Council came after Moscow lost an attempt to block the meeting and reflected the gulf between the two nuclear powers. It was the first open session where all protagonists in the Ukraine crisis spoke publicly, even though the UN’s most powerful body took no action.
More high-level diplomacy is expected this week.
In the meantime, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a decree on Tuesday expanding the country’s army by 100,000 troops, bringing the total number to 350,000.
Zelenskyy, who in recent days sought to calm the nation in the wake of fears of an imminent invasion, said Tuesday that he signed “this decree not because of a war.” “This decree is so that there is peace soon and further down the line,” the president said.