Russia doesn’t want conflict with the Ukraine but Western powers must provide Moscow with “unconditional security guarantees”, President Vladimir Putin has said.
Speaking at his annual news conference, Mr Putin said the US has missiles at “Russia’s doorstep” and the “ball is in the West’s court” in relation to security in the region.
The conference comes as Western powers fear Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine as early as the beginning of next year, which President Putin has again denied.
Asked by Sky’s Moscow correspondent Diana Magnay whether he can guarantee Russia won’t invade the Ukraine or any other sovereign country, or whether this depends on negotiations, Mr Putin said: “Our actions will depend not on the negotiation process but on the unconditional security of Russia. Today and towards the historical perspective.
“In this sense we have made it clear that any further NATO movement to the East is unacceptable, there is nothing unclear about this.
“We are not deploying our missiles over at the border of the US. On the other hand, the US is deploying its missiles close to our home, on the doorstep of our house.”
Putin says NATO ‘fooled’ Russia and keeps expanding
The Russian president continued: “What would the Americans think if we decided to come to the border between Canada and the United States, or Mexico, and simply deploy our own missiles over there?”
Mr Putin later said that NATO had “fooled” Russia by saying it would not expand eastwards across Europe in an agreement made in 1990.
He said since then the alliance had carried out “five waves of expansion” that went against that guarantee.
Waving his finger, Mr Putin said: “And you keep demanding some guarantees from us. You must give us the guarantees. It is up to you, and you must do this immediately, right now, instead of talking about this for decades.
“Using this small talk, soft talk, about the need for guarantees of the security for everyone. We are not threatening anybody.”
Russian leader says West has supported terrorists
Asked by Diana Magnay what he thinks the West doesn’t understand about Russia, Mr Putin replied: “Sometimes it seems to me that we live in two different worlds, I was speaking about very obvious things, how can you not understand that?
“You say you will not expand and then you keep expanding. You say we will have equal guarantees for everyone on a number of international agreements, and then we see there is no equality or no equal security.”
Mr Putin went on to say that in the 1990s, the Soviet Union did everything it could to build normal relations with the United States and the West.
He added that CIA advisers were able to visit Russian military nuclear sites.
Mr Putin continued: “What else did you need? Why did you have to support the terrorists in the North Caucasus and use the terrorist organisations to reach your goals and break down the Russian federation?
“This is exactly what you were doing, and as a former director of the FSB I know that.”
Putin says Russia doesn’t want conflict with Ukraine
The conference comes a day after Mr Putin threatened a “military-technical response” if Western countries continue with what he calls “unfriendly” actions over Ukraine.
Concerns are growing that Russia is planning to invade its neighbour Ukraine with thousands of troops gathering near the border.
Russia has denied it is preparing a military advance.
Speaking about potential conflict with Ukraine, Mr Putin said this morning: “This is not our (preferred) choice, we do not want this.”
Mr Putin said Russia had received a generally positive response to security proposals it handed to the United States this month and that negotiations would start early next year in Geneva.
“I hope the development of the situation will proceed along that path,” he said.
Russia rejects Ukrainian and US accusations that it may be preparing an invasion of Ukraine as early as next month by tens of thousands of Russian troops poised within reach of the border.
It says it needs pledges from the West – including a promise not to conduct NATO military activity in Eastern Europe – because its security is threatened by Ukraine’s growing ties with the Western alliance and the possibility of NATO missiles being deployed against it on Ukrainian territory.
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