Russia tells U.S. has no plans to invade Ukraine, wants more talks

Russia told the United States at tense talks Monday that it had no plans to invade Ukraine, as the two sides agreed to more efforts to keep tensions from turning into a full-blown confrontation, AFP reports.

After more than seven hours of negotiations in Geneva, the Russian and U.S. negotiators both offered to keep talking, though there was no sign of a major breakthrough.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said he had assured his U.S. counterpart, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, that those fears were unfounded.

“We explained to our colleagues that we have no plans, no intentions to ‘attack’ Ukraine… There is no reason to fear any escalation in this regard,” he told reporters after the talks.

Ryabkov said the United States “took Russian proposals very seriously” and that Moscow was “for the continuation of dialogue.”

Sherman said that she offered to make reciprocal moves with Russia on missiles and exercises, but renewed warnings of major costs if Moscow invaded Ukraine.

She said the United States was ready to meet again. She insisted, however that some of Russia’s demands were “simply non-starters,” including a ban on NATO’s further eastward expansion. “We will not allow anyone to slam closed NATO’s open-door policy,” Sherman said.

Monday’s talks in Geneva launched a week of diplomacy between Russia and the West. Both sides have set firm lines, with Washington warning that Moscow would face severe diplomatic and economic consequences from an invasion of Ukraine, and Russia demanding broad new security arrangements with the West.

After Monday’s talks, a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council will take place in Brussels on Wednesday, then the permanent council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will meet in Vienna on Thursday with the issue of Ukraine expected to dominate.

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