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Putin to mull options if Ukraine talks fail
Journal Staff Report

KYIV, Dec 27 - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday he would ponder a slew of options if the West fails to meet his push for security guarantees precluding NATO's expansion to Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

Earlier this month, Moscow submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and roll back its military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe.

Putin has urged the West to move quickly to meet the demands, warning that Moscow will have to take adequate military-technical measures if the West continues its aggressive course on the threshold of our home.

Asked to specify what such Moscow's response could be, he said in comments aired by Russian state TV Sunday that it could be diverse, adding without elaboration that it will depend on what proposals our military experts submit to me.

The U.S. and its allies have refused to offer Russia the kind of guarantee on Ukraine that Putin wants, citing NATOs principle that membership is open to any qualifying country. They agreed. however, to launch security talks with Russia next month to discuss its concerns.

Putin said the talks with the U.S. will be held in Geneva. In parallel, negotiations are also set to be held between Russia and NATO and broader discussions are expected under the aegis of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

He reaffirmed that NATO membership for Ukraine or the deployment of alliance weapons there is a red line for Moscow that it wouldn't allow the West to cross.

We have nowhere to retreat, he said, adding that NATO could deploy missiles in Ukraine that would take just four or five minutes to reach Moscow. They have pushed us to a line that we can't cross. They have taken it to the point where we simply must tell them; Stop!"

Meanwhile, more than 10,000 Russian troops have been returning to their permanent bases after month-long drills near Ukraine, Interfax news agency reported on Saturday, citing the Russian military, Reuters reported.

Interfax said the drills were held in several regions near Ukraine, including in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, as well as in the southern Russian regions of Rostov and Kuban.

Russia's deployment of tens of thousands of troops to the north, east and south of Ukraine had fuelled fears in Kyiv and Western capitals that Moscow was planning an attack.

Estimates for the number of Russian troops recently moved closer to Ukraine vary from 60,000 to 90,000, with one U.S. intelligence document suggesting that number could be ramped up as high as 175,000. (ap/ez)




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