Vladimir Putin has suggested that it is still not too late for a dialogue on Ukraine, as the world continues to wonder if the Russian president is about to invade his neighbor or if his military reinforcement is a negotiation strategy.
At a meeting in the Kremlin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Putin he believed there was still room for dialogue on Russian demands for a new security deal with the West , which were made as Russia gathered 140,000 troops around Ukraine’s borders in recent weeks.
“It seems to me that our possibilities are far from being exhausted. They certainly shouldn’t go on forever. But at this stage, I would suggest that they continue and be intensified,” Lavrov told Putin.
Putin, who has become accustomed to holding meetings with extreme social distancing due to fear of contracting Covid, gave his assent from across an extremely long table.
The footage released at the meeting seemed carefully choreographed to send a message about Kremlin thinking.
“We caution against endless conversations about issues that need to be resolved today. Yet, as foreign minister, I have to say there is always a chance,” Lavrov said.
Meanwhile, a senior Russian diplomat told the Guardian that Russia would be within its rights to “counterattack” against Ukraine if it felt Kiev was threatening the people of eastern Ukraine.
“We will not invade Ukraine unless we are provoked to do so,” Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the EU, said in an interview in Brussels.
“If the Ukrainians launch an attack on Russia, you shouldn’t be surprised if we counterattack. Or if they start blatantly killing Russian citizens anywhere – Donbass or anywhere,” he said.
Donbass is the region in eastern Ukraine where Russia has armed and financed an insurgency since 2014 and where the Kremlin has distributed hundreds of thousands of Russian passports. In January, US officials briefed reporters on intelligence they said showed Russia was planning a “false flag” incident that could be used as a pretext for intervention.
Full report here.