Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said he wanted “concrete agreements” from Nato that it would not expand eastwards, as the West accuses the Kremlin of planning a Ukraine invasion.
“In our dialogue with the US and its allies, we will insist on developing specific agreements that would exclude any further Nato moves east and the deployment of weapons systems that threaten us close to Russian territory, Putin said.
“We propose to start substantive negotiations on this,” Putin said as he received credentials from newly appointed ambassadors at a Kremlin ceremony.
He said Moscow seeks “legal guarantees”, adding that the West had “not fulfilled their spoken obligations” and “ignored” Russian concerns.
The US on Wednesday said it had “evidence” Russia could be planning an invasion of Ukraine, threatening Moscow with new economic sanctions if it attacks.
Putin said Russia was responding to what he called a growing threat on its Western border.
He claimed that Nato military infrastructure is “close” to Russian borders, saying this was “more than serious” to Moscow.
“In this situation, we are taking adequate military-technical measures,” the Russian leader said.
“But, I repeat, we are not threatening anyone as we are accused of doing.”
Speaking at a Nato meeting in Latvia’s capital Riga later on Wednesday, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Moscow had “no right” to decide Kiev’s relations with the alliance.
“Russia cannot stop Ukraine from getting closer to Nato and has no right to have any say in the relevant discussions,” Kuleba said.
“Any Russian proposals to discuss with Nato or the US any so-called guarantees that the alliance would not expand to the east are illegitimate,” he added.
He urged the US-led alliance for a “deterrence package” to stop Russia.
Kiev’s Western allies have been sounding the alarm since last month over a fresh Russian troop buildup around Ukraine’s borders and a possible winter invasion.
Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists fighting Kiev, has strongly denied it is plotting an attack and blames Nato for fuelling tensions.