(Update 1: Adds remarks of US and Russian officials, alters headline and lede)
Moscow, Jan 10 (EFE).- Russia on Monday said it had no intention to attack Ukraine while the United States defended Kiev’s right to ally with Nato.
US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman met with her Russian counterpart Sergey Ryabkov at the US diplomatic mission in what was the first of a series of important discussions set to take place this week.
“We have no plans, no intentions to ‘attack’ Ukraine,” Ryabkov said in a televised presser held in Russia’s permanent mission to the UN after the talks.
The Russian official said there is no reason to fear a possible escalation with Ukraine, who has warned along with Washington, plans for a Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
For her part, Sherman said at a presser: “One country cannot change the borders of another by force or dictate the terms of another country’s foreign policy, or forbid another country from choosing its own alliances.”
Further discussions later this week will involve Nato on Wednesday and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on Thursday.
Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has proposed a set of security guarantees to avoid a new armed conflict in Ukraine, which includes putting a halt on Nato’s eastward expansion.
The US, NATO and Ukraine have in return urged Russia to withdraw its forces from the Ukrainian border.
According to Washington, Russia has amassed 100,000 troops along the border and could double that number at short notice.
At a separate meeting between Nato and Ukraine on Monday, the Alliance’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg warned that any further Russian aggression against Ukraine would come at a “high political and economic price.”
He was also pessimistic about the prospect of a breakthrough but said the meetings this week could lead to an agreement on a “way forward.”
“We will listen to Russia’s concerns, but any meaningful dialogue must also address our concerns with Russia’s actions and it must take place in consultation with Ukraine,” he said at a joint press conference with Olga Stefanishyna,
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, in Brussels.
Stefanishyna stipulated that security negotiations could only take place after Russia withdraws its troops from the border. EFE