Russia says talks with Nato have hit 'dead end', heightening fears of Ukraine invasion

·3 min read
Russian military personnel take part in a drill in Shukozero, in Arctic Russia, this week. Fears of an invasion of Ukraine have grown after talks between Moscow and the West stalled
Russian military personnel take part in a drill in Shukozero, in Arctic Russia, this week. Fears of an invasion of Ukraine have grown after talks between Moscow and the West stalled

Russia has said talks with Nato on the Ukraine crisis had reached a “dead end”, escalating fears of an imminent invasion.

High-stakes talks between Moscow and the West have been taking place across Europe this week in a bid to find a solution to the crisis, amid a 100,000-strong build-up of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border.

Sergey Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister and a lead negotiator in the talks, said the meetings had reached a “dead end of sorts”.

Moscow would not continue discussing “secondary” security issues if the West was deaf to the country’s more pressing security concerns, he said.

A Ukrainian Military Forces serviceman watches through a spyglass on a trench on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near Lugansk village - Anatolii Stepanov/AFP
A Ukrainian Military Forces serviceman watches through a spyglass on a trench on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near Lugansk village - Anatolii Stepanov/AFP

The Kremlin last month demanded that Ukraine never be allowed to join Nato and that the alliance should withdraw its troops from Eastern Europe. The bloc has rejected both proposals and put forward confidence-building measures such as limiting military drills.

“I don’t see any point in getting together and sitting down to talk in the coming days about the same things without having a clear idea whether there is any scope or flexibility on the other side to work on these serious issues,” Mr Ryabkov told Russian media.

Russia and the US met for security talks in Geneva this week, ahead of a meeting between Moscow and Nato, the first in two years, in Brussels on Wednesday. The flurry of diplomatic activity culminated in talks between Russia and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna on Thursday.

Alexander Lukashevich, head of the Russian delegation in Vienna, told reporters after the talks he was “disappointed” by what he had heard.

“We’re trying to set our differences in a diplomatic way,” he said. “If we fail, we should provide guarantees (for our security) by other means.”

Poland’s foreign minister Zbigniew Rau, launching his country’s year-long chairmanship of the OSCE, said Europe was closer to war than any time in the last 30 years.

Michael Carpenter, the US permanent representative to the 57-nation grouping, warned after the talks that the “drumbeat of war is sounding loud, and the rhetoric has gotten rather shrill."

“We’re facing a crisis in European security," he said.

Washington is preparing how it will respond if talks fail and Russia does go ahead with an invasion of Ukraine.

Senate Democrats on Wednesday unveiled new potential sanctions against Russia that target President Vladimir Putin personally and the Kremlin’s key banks.

A Ukrainian Military Forces serviceman walk past a metal plate which reads as "Caution mines" on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near Luganske village, in Donetsk region on January 11, 2022 - Anatolii Stepanov/AFP
A Ukrainian Military Forces serviceman walk past a metal plate which reads as "Caution mines" on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near Luganske village, in Donetsk region on January 11, 2022 - Anatolii Stepanov/AFP

The Kremlin has dismissed the idea of further sanctions as an empty threat, with foreign minister Sergey Lavrov describing the plans as a sign of Washington’s “nervous breakdown.”

Escalating fears over Ukraine are being felt across Europe, with Sweden yesterday / THURS starting patrols of the airport and harbours of its strategic Baltic island of Gotland.

Sweden formed its P18 Gotland regiment in response to the perceived threat from Russia.

"We see an increasingly tense situation," Tomas Ängshammar, the regiment's spokesperson, told Swedish Radio. "Ukraine is not that far away, and if we see a military conflict there, it will affect us, so we need to show the surrounding world that we are on our toes.”

Swedish Armed Forces on Wednesday dispatched two Saab JAS Gripen aircraft and a Visby-class corvette to meet the three Russian landing ships which had sailed around the coast of Norway from Russia's Arctic coast.

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