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Putin Alerts Openness to Diplomacy Whereas Blaming U.S. for Disaster

MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin mentioned on Tuesday that america was attempting to drag Russia into an armed battle over Ukraine that his authorities didn’t need and signaled he was ready to have interaction in additional diplomacy, whilst he insisted that NATO’s presence in Japanese Europe threatened world peace.

Mr. Putin mentioned he hoped that “dialogue will probably be continued” over Russia’s safety calls for, refraining from repeating his earlier risk to take unspecified “military-technical” measures if the West didn’t comply. Addressing the standoff over Ukraine for the primary time since December, Mr. Putin seemed to be attempting to dial down tensions barely in a disaster that has ignited fears of a full-fledged Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian president claimed it was america that was fanning the flames of conflict, searching for to goad the Kremlin into motion and create a pretext for enacting harsh new sanctions. Officers in Russia — in addition to Ukraine — have accused the Biden administration of exaggerating the specter of a Russian invasion, even because the Kremlin has massed, by Western estimates, greater than 100,000 troops to Ukraine’s south, east and north, precipitating the disaster.

“Their most essential process is to comprise Russia’s improvement,” Mr. Putin mentioned of america, repeating certainly one of his frequent speaking factors. “Ukraine is simply an instrument of attaining this purpose. It may be performed in several methods, similar to pulling us into some armed battle after which forcing their allies in Europe to enact these harsh sanctions in opposition to us.”

Requested about america’ written responses to Moscow’s safety calls for, which had been delivered final week, Mr. Putin mentioned that it was clear “that the principal Russian issues turned out to be ignored.” The Kremlin, he mentioned, continues to be assessing the responses because it weighs its subsequent transfer.

Mr. Putin’s rigorously calibrated feedback spoke to the excessive tensions of the second — and the pivotal choices the longtime Russian chief faces within the coming weeks. Army analysts say that sustaining Russia’s present navy buildup, which entails models from hundreds of miles away, will change into more and more costly and logistically difficult.

Sending a few of them again to base earlier than securing a diplomatic victory could possibly be learn as an indication of weak point, whereas launching an assault on Ukraine can be more likely to price many lives and have wide-ranging penalties.

In Washington, the White Home press secretary, Jen Psaki, reacted derisively to Mr. Putin’s feedback, evaluating them to “when the fox is screaming from the highest of the henhouse that he’s fearful of the chickens.”

“We all know who the fox is on this case,” she mentioned.

Ned Worth, a State Division spokesman, mentioned he would “depart it to the Kremlinologists on the market” to interpret the Russian chief’s phrases.

Mr. Putin’s look, at a joint information convention with Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary after they met for 5 hours, got here as a flurry of diplomacy performed out involving Europe and america. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke by cellphone along with his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, who mentioned afterward that america had agreed to “additional dialogue” on Russia’s calls for.

The Kremlin mentioned Mr. Putin additionally held a name on Tuesday with Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, and that an in-person assembly with President Emmanuel Macron of France was deliberate. Mr. Putin will converse to Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Mr. Johnson flew to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and met with President Volodymyr Zelensky in a present of assist, saying there may be “a transparent and current hazard.’’

Mr. Zelensky, who additionally met with the prime minister of Poland on Tuesday, provided his personal grim appraisal, after weeks of enjoying down American and British assessments of the severity of the Russian risk.

“This isn’t going to be a conflict of Ukraine and Russia,” ought to diplomatic efforts fail, he mentioned. “That is going to be a European conflict, a full-fledged conflict.”

Whereas Mr. Johnson tried to maintain the deal with Russia, he was immediately placed on the defensive by aggressive questioning a couple of scandal over illicit events through the pandemic that’s imperiling his maintain on workplace. “On the problem of Ukraine,” one reporter requested, “why ought to the worldwide group take your diplomacy severely while you’re so preoccupied?”

Mr. Johnson dodged many of the questions on his troubles at residence. However pressed on whether or not he would launch an unredacted report by a senior civil servant investigating the events, Mr. Johnson replied, “In fact we’ll publish the whole lot as quickly as the method is accomplished.”

For weeks, Russia has been insisting that the present disaster is not only about Ukraine, however a couple of European safety structure that fails to take Russia’s pursuits into consideration. Final December, as American officers began elevating alarms about what they mentioned was a Russian troop buildup, Moscow issued written calls for for “safety ensures.” They included that NATO, the Western navy alliance, not broaden eastward, guaranteeing that Ukraine won’t ever be a part of it, and that NATO draw down forces in Japanese European international locations previously a part of the Soviet Union or its orbit.

Mr. Putin mentioned these had been existential points that Russia was decided to lastly resolve. However many analysts and Western officers interpreted his stance as an try and create a pretext for potential navy motion in opposition to Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that Mr. Putin has wished to reinsert into Russia’s sphere of affect ever since Ukraine’s pro-Western revolution in 2014.

America has tried to have interaction with Mr. Putin on his diplomatic calls for, betting that such negotiations — backed by threats of extreme sanctions ought to they fail — may avert a Russian assault on Ukraine. After conferences with Russian officers final month, america and its NATO companions despatched Russia written responses to Mr. Putin’s calls for.

Western officers mentioned they didn’t budge in these responses on their rivalry that each nation have to be allowed to decide on its alliances, however mentioned that they did supply talks on different safety issues of curiosity to Russia.

Mr. Putin on Tuesday mentioned Russia was nonetheless “rigorously analyzing” these responses, however that it was clear his most urgent calls for had been being ignored. He described the potential of Ukraine becoming a member of NATO as a basic risk not simply to Russia, however to world peace.

He mentioned {that a} Western-allied Ukraine strengthened with NATO weapons may launch a conflict in opposition to Russia to recapture Crimea — which Russia annexed in 2014, a transfer unrecognized by the worldwide group. That, he mentioned, may result in conflict between Russia and the NATO bloc.

“If we have a look at all these many questions deeply, severely, then it turns into clear that so as to keep away from such a adverse improvement of the state of affairs — and we need to keep away from it — all international locations’ pursuits, together with these of Russia, have to be actually taken into consideration, and a method of fixing this downside have to be discovered,” Mr. Putin mentioned.

Nonetheless, Mr. Putin mentioned that he would hold speaking, together with with Mr. Macron, the French president, who might go to Moscow within the close to future.

“I hope that finally we are going to discover this answer although it’s not straightforward, we perceive that,” Mr. Putin mentioned. “However to speak as we speak about what that will probably be — I’m, in fact, not prepared to do this.”

Even because it faces down the West, the Kremlin stays eager to indicate that Russia has mates all over the world. A go to to Moscow by President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is being ready, the Kremlin mentioned. On Friday, Mr. Putin will go to Beijing for a summit with President Xi Jinping on the day of the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, in what would be the Chinese language chief’s first assembly with a international counterpart for the reason that pandemic.

On the United Nations on Tuesday, Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia of Russia advised reporters that he hoped the Olympics would supply a respite from the heightened tensions, a minimum of for the primary few days of February. A day earlier, Russia and america angrily confronted one another over the Ukraine disaster at a public assembly of the Safety Council, with theatrics and rhetoric harking back to the Chilly Struggle period.

After the joint information convention with Mr. Putin and Mr. Orban, the Kremlin launched footage of the 2 having fun with a socially distanced champagne toast. Mr. Orban is the Russian president’s closest ally among the many leaders of the European Union and NATO.

“We now have some days and weeks to barter,” Mr. Orban advised Russian state tv, responding to a query about the potential of a Russian assault on Ukraine. “I don’t suppose that one thing will occur abruptly.”

Anton Troianovski reported from Moscow and Michael Schwirtz from Kyiv. Reporting was contributed Ivan Nechepurenko and Valerie Hopkins from Moscow, Jason Horowitz from Rome, Maria Varenikova from Kyiv, Michael Crowley and David E. Sanger in Washington, and Rick Gladstone from New York.

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