Russia is not preparing a military invasion of Ukraine, its ambassador to the European Union was quoted as saying on December 23 as Russia’s top diplomat said talks will be held early next year on Moscow’s security proposals.
Vladimir Chizhov said Russia wanted to support Russian-speaking people living in other countries, but he added that Moscow never said it wanted to use military means for this.
"Russia is not planning an attack against any country. I can assure you that no Russian troops are currently preparing for an invasion of Ukraine," Chizhov told the German newspaper Die Welt in an interview.
The Kremlin has amassed about 100,000 combat-ready troops near eastern Ukraine, alarming Ukraine, NATO, and the United States and its European partners. Moscow has previously rejected Western concerns about the troop buildup, saying it's free to deploy forces wherever necessary on its territory.
Earlier on December 22 in Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russian and U.S. negotiators early next year will discuss Moscow's security proposals, which include a demand for an end to NATO’s eastward expansion and limitations on the alliance’s military activity in Eastern Europe.
Russia will also start separate talks with NATO in January, Lavrov said, adding that separate negotiations led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will also be held.
Lavrov hailed Washington’s “business-like” approach that helped quickly agree on parameters of the future talks.
“We don’t want a war,” Lavrov said on December 22 in an interview with Russian RT television. “We don’t want to take the path of confrontation. But we will firmly ensure our security using the means we consider necessary.”
Lavrov’s interview followed comments made earlier by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried, who said the United States and Russia would likely hold bilateral talks to discuss Moscow’s security proposals next month.
Donfried said NATO would also discuss inviting Russia for talks on its proposals, and the OSCE was working out how it wants to engage Russia.
The U.S. already has said it won't give Russia the kind of guarantee on NATO expansion it seeks. In the meantime, the American side is conferring with its European allies.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed Ukraine on December 22 with Josep Borrell, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy.
“They emphasized the need for coordinated action to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and reaffirmed that any further Russian military aggression against Ukraine would have massive consequences for the Russian Federation,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.