The Russian Foreign Ministry says Moscow seeks firm security guarantees from the West in the upcoming talks between Russia and NATO member states amid rising tensions over Ukraine.
“During the talks we will seek firm legal guarantees of Russia’s security from the US side, namely that NATO will not move eastwards and that weapons systems threatening Russia will not be deployed near our borders,” Maria Zakharova, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, told a news briefing in Moscow on Thursday.
Zakharova said the talks between Russia and the US-led military alliance are scheduled for January 10, adding that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and his American counterpart will lead the security talks in the Swiss city of Geneva.
“I can report that on January 10 in Geneva, we plan to hold inter-ministerial delegation talks between the US and Russia. The Russian delegation will be led by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, and the US delegation will be led by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman,” the Russian foreign ministry spokesperson added.
Russia is also due to hold talks with NATO in Brussels on January 12, before a broader meeting on January 13, which Zakharova said would take place in Vienna.
The January 13 talks will involve the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which includes the United States and its NATO allies, as well as Russia, Ukraine and other ex-Soviet states.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last Monday that talks on a list of security guarantees Moscow wants from Washington regarding the rubbing points in relations with NATO over Ukraine are scheduled to be held between Russian and American officials next month.
Lavrov said in an interview live-streamed on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website that the talks would take place immediately after Russia’s New Year holidays. The first official working day of 2022 in Russia starts on January 10.
Earlier in the month, Russia unveiled a list of security proposals it wants to negotiate with the US, including a pledge that NATO would give up any military activity in Eastern Europe and Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden’s administration has said a number of Russia’s security proposals are obviously unacceptable but that the US will respond with more concrete ideas on the format of any talks.
Tensions have been mounting in eastern Ukraine since November, when several Western media outlets reported that Russia had been amassing troops near the border with the objective of a large-scale military invasion of the country. Moscow denies the allegations, saying it is free to move its troops around within its own borders and that its military buildup is in response to increased NATO activity near its borders.
Russia says it does not seek an armed conflict with Ukraine but “has all the capabilities in place to ensure a full military and technical response to any kind of provocations that might unfold around us.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned the West against crossing the Kremlin’s red lines by staging military exercises in and sending lethal weaponry to Ukraine.
Moscow has already ordered some 10,000 servicemen who had gathered close to the Ukrainian border to return to their permanent bases.