MOSCOW: Russia sent its strongest signal yet on Friday that it is willing to participate in the U.S. security proposal and reiterated that it does not want war against Ukraine.
“If it depends on Russia, then there will be no war. We don t want wars. But we also won t allow our interests to be rudely trampled, to be ignored,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian radio stations in an interview.
Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops near the Ukrainian border as it presses demands for a redrawing of post-Cold War security arrangements in Europe.
The United States and its allies have warned President Vladimir Putin that Russia will face swift and tough economic sanctions if he attacks Ukraine.
Lavrov said the West was ignoring Russia s interests but there was at least “something” in written responses submitted by the United States and NATO on Wednesday to Russia s proposals.
While the responses have not been made public, both sides have expressed willingness to engage with Moscow on arms control and confidence-building measures. They ruled out accepting other demands, including never allowing Ukraine to join NATO.
Lavrov said he expected to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken again in the coming weeks.
The U.S. counter-proposal was better than NATO’s, he said, without giving details. Russia is studying them, and Putin will decide how to respond.
The comments were among the mildest from Moscow on the Ukraine crisis, which has escalated into one of the most tense East-West confrontations since the end of the Cold War three years ago.
Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Russia, said on Friday that his country had absolutely no interest in war and that conflict would only break out if Belarus or Russia were directly attacked.
French President Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to speak with Putin by phone on Friday.
“It is up to Vladimir Putin to say if he wants consultations or confrontation,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told RTL radio, asking whether the Russian leader wanted to be a “destabilising power” or would seek de-escalation.
The Kremlin said it did not rule out that Putin would provide some Russian assessments of the Western response to its proposals during the conversation.