Russia likely to stay on diplomatic track for next two weeks - Ukraine

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Blinken meets with Ukrainian FM Kuleba in Kyiv

By Nikolaj Skydsgaard

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) -Russia is likely to remain on a diplomatic track with Kyiv and the West for at least two weeks but will continue efforts to destabilise Ukraine, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Thursday.

Russia has massed troops near Ukraine's border but says it does not plan to invade its neighbour.

Speaking after Russia held security talks in Paris on Wednesday with diplomats from Ukraine, France and Germany, Kuleba told a news briefing in Copenhagen: "Nothing has changed, this is the bad news."

"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 Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod.

The so-called "Normandy" talks in Paris were seen as a step towards defusing broader tensions in a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

"Unfortunately, the biggest demand that Russia has is that Ukraine engages directly in talks with Russian proxies in Donetsk and Luhansk instead of negotiating with Russia. This will not happen, this is a matter of principle," Kuleba said.

Donetsk and Luhansk are self-proclaimed republics in the Donbass in eastern Ukraine.

Kuleba said Ukraine was preparing itself for all scenarios, but that Russia's main strategy now was to destabilise Ukraine, including by using hybrid warfare tactics such as cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns.

"We understand that a military operation is something they keep in the pocket, it's not something they put ahead of other options," he said.

Russia says the crisis is being driven by NATO and U.S. actions and is demanding security guarantees from the West, including a promise by NATO never to admit Ukraine.

On Wednesday, the U.S. repeated in a written response https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/us-urges-de-escalation-over-ukraine-offers-russia-diplomatic-path-2022-01-27 to Russia's demands its commitment to upholding NATO's "open-door" policy while offering a "principled and pragmatic evaluation" of the Kremlin's concerns.

Kuleba said he had seen the part of the response which relates to Ukraine and had no objections.

"I must commend the openness of the Biden administration to consulting with us before they speak with the Russians," he said, adding that any deals made without the Ukraine would not be accepted.

(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard, Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Alison Williams and Timothy Heritage)