British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Johnson-Putin Talks Among Efforts to Resolve Russia-Ukraine Crisis

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A day after saying he still believes there is a diplomatic path to resolving the crisis along the Russia-Ukraine border, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to speak by telephone Wednesday with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Johnson said Tuesday during a visit to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, that Russia’s massing of more than 100,000 troops near the border is “perhaps the biggest demonstration of hostility towards Ukraine in our lifetimes.”

Johnson expressed support for Ukraine’s right to self-determination and said the preparation of sanctions by Western allies to levy against Russia should it invade Ukraine is not a “show of hostility towards Russia,” but rather a demonstration of support for Ukraine.

“It is vital that Russia steps back and chooses a path of diplomacy, and I believe that is still possible,” Johnson said.

In this photo taken from video released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Feb. 2, 2022, Russian and Belarusian tanks drive during joint military drills at Brestsky firing range, Belarus.
In this photo taken from video released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Feb. 2, 2022, Russian and Belarusian tanks drive during joint military drills at Brestsky firing range, Belarus.

The diplomatic push is set to continue Thursday as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Erdogan’s chief adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, held talks Tuesday with U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, with an NSC statement saying the two “underscored their shared commitment to both ongoing diplomacy and joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday the United States and its allies have ignored Russia’s top security demands that they deny Ukraine membership in the NATO military alliance and pull back their weaponry near Russia, while the U.S. reiterated its “commitment” to Ukraine and its territorial integrity.

Putin, in his first public comments on the standoff with the West over Ukraine in more than a month, said at a news conference that the Kremlin was still studying the U.S. and NATO response to Russian security demands received last week.

This satellite images provided by Maxar Technologies shows troops gathered at a training ground in Pogonovo, Russia, on Jan. 26, 2022.
This satellite images provided by Maxar Technologies shows troops gathered at a training ground in Pogonovo, Russia, on Jan. 26, 2022.

The West has refused to rule out Ukraine membership in NATO, saying no outside country has veto power over who belongs in the U.S.-led military alliance formed after World War II.

“It’s already clear now … that fundamental Russian concerns were ignored,” Putin told reporters.

He also said, however, that it’s possible to negotiate an end to the standoff if the interests of all parties, including Russia’s security concerns, are taken into account, The Associated Press reported.

“I hope that we will eventually find a solution, although we realize that it’s not going to be easy,” Putin said, according to AP.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized U.S. “commitment” to Ukraine in a call Tuesday with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the State Department said.

Blinken urged “immediate Russian de-escalation” of the crisis along Ukraine’s eastern flank by withdrawing its troops.

He also reiterated the U.S. threat to impose “swift and severe” economic sanctions against Moscow if it invades Ukraine.

Later this month, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is traveling to Europe to meet with NATO allies.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, speaking in an interview with VOA on Tuesday, said Austin would attend the in-person NATO defense ministerial hosted by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on February 16-17.

Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report.

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