Putin accuses the West of tensions and demands security guarantees

MOSCOW (AP), -- Tuesday's Russian president reiterated his demand that the U.S. and its allies guarantee that NATO will not expand eastwards. He blamed the West for the "tensions that are growing in Europe."

Putin accuses the West of tensions and demands security guarantees

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke at a meeting of Russia's top military brass just days after Moscow had submitted draft security documents requesting that NATO deny membership in Ukraine and other former Soviet states and reverse the alliance's military deployments to Central and Eastern Europe. These bold ultimatums are almost certain to be rejected.

These demands were made in a Russia-U.S. security agreement and a security deal between Moscow and NATO. They were made amid rising tensions about a Russian troop buildup close to Ukraine, which has stoked fears that there might be an invasion. Russia denied plans to attack its neighbor, but demanded legal guarantees that would prevent NATO expansion and weapons deployment.

Putin claimed Tuesday that it would take only minutes for NATO and the U.S. missile systems to appear in Ukraine.

He said that "it is the most serious problem -- a threat to our security" and that the Kremlin requires "long-term legally binding guarantees" from West. This is in contrast to "verbal assurances words and promises" Moscow cannot trust.

Putin acknowledged that NATO had expanded eastwards since the late 1990s, while reassuring that Russia's concerns were unfounded.

The Russian leader stated that "what is happening now, tensions building up in Europe is their (U.S.A. and NATO's] fault every step of this way." "Russia was forced to respond at each step. The situation continued to worsen, getting worse and worse. We are now in a position where we have to solve it.

After Russia annexed Crimea Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, its relations with the U.S. fell to post-Cold War lows. It gained control over long coastlines of Black Sea and Sea of Azov and supported an insurgent insurgency in east Ukraine that still holds territory. Recent weeks saw tensions rekindle after Moscow gathered tens of thousand of troops close to Ukraine's borders.

Putin demanded that NATO not expand into Ukraine and deploy its forces there. This was raised during a video conference with Joe Biden, the U.S. president, two weeks ago.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed Tuesday that over 120 U.S. military personnel are currently working in war-torn Ukraine in training and firing positions, as well as in different facilities.

Putin stated that the U.S. should understand that there is no retreat from.

He said, "What they are trying to do now at Ukraine's territorial territory, it is not thousands of km away, it is happening right at our doorstep."

Putin stated that Moscow hopes for "constructive, meaningful discussions with a visible result -- within a specified time frame -- that will ensure equal security."

"Armed conflicts and bloodshed are not our choice. We don't want these developments." Putin stated that he wanted to resolve problems through diplomatic and political means.

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