Russia says US seeking to provoke Ukraine conflict
Russia has accused the United States of seeking to provoke a conflict in Ukraine and waging a "propaganda campaign" against Moscow.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the remarks during a phone conversation with his American counterpart Antony Blinken on Saturday. "The propaganda campaign unleashed by the United States and its allies concerning 'Russian aggression' against Ukraine pursues provocative goals."
Lavrov further noted the “propaganda campaign” about “Russian aggression” has encouraged the authorities in Kiev "to sabotage the Minsk agreements and harm attempts to resolve the Donbass problem" in eastern Ukraine by force, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
He reiterated that the West had ignored Russia’s key demands in the Ukraine standoff. "It was emphasized that these issues will be at the center of our assessment of the documents received from the US and NATO," the ministry stated.
Relations between Russia and the West have hit a new low in recent weeks. The United States, its NATO allies, and Ukraine have accused Russia of massing troops near Ukraine’s border for a possible invasion. Moscow rejects the allegation and insists that deployments are defensive in nature.
The US military has put 8,500 troops on high alert for deployment to Eastern Europe to bolster the NATO presence in the region. The State Department has also approved shipments of US-made missiles and other weapons from NATO allies Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia to Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden has warned that Moscow would face unprecedented sanctions if it invades Ukraine. He has also threatened direct economic sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Biden administration has been spearheading efforts to build a united front against Russia, but the attempts have been wrought with divisions among the European allies and partisan bickering at home.
American and Russian diplomats held talks to resolve the crisis over Ukraine in January but failed to make a breakthrough. However, they agreed to continue the talks.
Russia has demanded legally binding guarantees from NATO that it will halt its eastward expansion and return to its 1997 borders. Moscow also demanded that the military alliance never admit Ukraine as a member.
Meanwhile, the US State Department says Blinken has told Lavrov that diplomatic channels remained "open" to avoid conflict in Ukraine but would require Moscow to "deescalate."
"The secretary made clear that a diplomatic path to resolving the crisis remained open, but it would require Moscow to deescalate and engage in good-faith discussions," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.