Russian diplomats and military officials will take part in talks with the United States in January on a list of security guarantees Moscow wants from Washington amid simmering tension between the pair over Ukraine.
The talks will take place immediately after the country’s New Year holidays, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday in an interview live-streamed on his ministry’s website.
The first official working day of 2022 in Russia is January 10.
There was no immediate comment on Lavrov’s remarks from Washington.
Russia has unnerved Ukraine and Kyiv’s Western allies with a recent buildup of tens of thousands of troops along the two countries’ shared border – the second such move this year – raising concerns Moscow may be plotting an imminent invasion of its neighbour.
But the Kremlin has denied that it plans to make an incursion into Ukraine.
Instead, it says, the security situation in the region has been undermined by the expansion of the US-headed NATO transatlantic security alliance and Ukraine’s growing ties with the body – developments Moscow claims threaten Russia and contravene assurances given to it as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Moscow has compared the situation to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis when the world came to the brink of nuclear war.
Earlier this month, Russia unveiled the wish list of security proposals it wants to negotiate. Among Moscow’s propositions, many of which are seen as non-starters in the West, is a demand that NATO promises to give up any military activity in Eastern Europe and Ukraine.
Possible talks with NATO
Lavrov’s remarks came after Russia’s foreign ministry said on Sunday it was considering a NATO proposal to commence talks on Moscow’s security concerns on January 12.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that it made sense for Russia to hold talks on the security guarantees it wants with NATO in addition to bilateral negotiations with the US.
Peskov added that the arrangements for the proposed discussions were being worked out via diplomatic channels.
Separately on Monday, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that Russian troops had held a military exercise to practice repelling enemy air attacks.
About 1,000 troops took part in the operation, Interfax reported, citing Russia’s Western Military District. The drill came after some Russian troops began returning to permanent bases last week, having earlier been deployed near the border with Ukraine.
Kyiv’s allies warn of ‘consequences’
The US and Kyiv’s other Western allies, including the UK and EU, have warned Moscow that it will face “massive consequences”, including tough economic sanctions, in the event of any new aggression from Russia towards Ukraine.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and shortly after supported a separatist rebellion in the country’s east, plunging relations between Moscow and the West to post-Cold War lows.
The fighting in Ukraine’s industrial heartland, known as the Donbas, has killed more than 14,000 people to date, according to Kyiv.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last week accused Ukraine’s government of breaking its commitments under a 2015 deal meant to halt the conflict and refusing to talk to representatives of two breakaway regions there. He said his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, had been influenced by “radical nationalist forces”.
Zelenskyy, for his part, has said he is ready to talk with Russia “in any format”.
The Kremlin has so far rejected any such discussions and repeatedly said it sees no point in any meeting without clarity on what the agenda would be.