US, NATO reject Putin's Ukraine demands
Russia keeps door open after West threatens to axe Russia pipeline over Ukraine
MOSCOW, Jan 27: Russia said on Thursday it was clear the United States was not willing to address its main security concerns but kept the door open for further dialogue in their standoff over Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow, which has massed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine, would not rush to draw conclusions after Washington formally responded to Russian proposals for a redrawing of post-Cold War security arrangements in Europe.
Describing tensions on the continent as reminiscent of the Cold War, Peskov said it would take time for Moscow to review Wednesday's response from Washington. But he said U.S. and NATO statements that Russia's main demands were unacceptable did not leave much room for optimism.
"Based on what our colleagues said yesterday, it's absolutely clear that on the main categories outlined in those draft documents... we cannot say that our thoughts have been taken into account or that a willingness has been shown to take our concerns into account," Peskov said. "But we won't rush with our assessments," he said.
The nuanced Kremlin reaction made clear that Russia was not rejecting the US and NATO responses out of hand or closing the door to diplomacy. Russian and Ukrainian dollar bonds, which have been hammered in recent weeks by the crisis, both rose in response to Peskov's comments. Russia's dollar-denominated RTS share index climbed 4%.
Russia denies planning to invade Ukraine but says it wants to enforce "red lines" to protect its own security. It presented demands in December that NATO halt any further enlargement, bar Ukraine from ever joining and pull back forces and weaponry from eastern European countries that joined the alliance after the Cold War ended.
Germany and the US have warned they could target a key Russian gas pipeline if the country invades Ukraine. A US state department spokesman said the Nord Stream 2 pipeline "will not move forward" if Russia were to attack. The controversial energy project is designed to double gas flow and runs from Russia direct to Germany under the Baltic Sea.
It circumvents Ukraine, which relies on existing pipelines for income and is under threat from Russian forces. Tens of thousands of Russian troops have massed on Ukraine's borders in recent weeks, prompting fears of an invasion - despite repeated Russian denials of any plan to attack.
The 1,225km (760-mile) pipeline took five years to build and cost some $11bn (£8bn). But as yet it has not started operating, as regulators said in November it does not comply with German law and suspended its approval.
On Wednesday the US rejected Russia's key demand to bar Ukraine from joining the Nato military alliance, while offering Moscow a "serious diplomatic path forward". President Vladimir Putin is currently assessing the proposals, his spokesman said on Thursday. -REUTERS