Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin has said Russia does not want war in Europe, but that his security concerns must be addressed and taken seriously by western nations.
Putin’s comments come as the Russian military announced on Tuesday, February 15, that some troops were withdrawing from the border near Ukraine – the first sign from Moscow of a possible de-escalation of tensions.
Russia’s sudden military build-up of 130,000 troops on Ukraine’s border prompted fears it would invade Ukraine although Putin has always denied he is planning an incursion.
Russia has deep cultural and historic ties with Ukraine, which is a former Soviet republic and Putin has asked the West to assure him that Ukraine will not join the Western NATO military alliance because he sees any expansion the alliance as a threat to Russia.
Speaking in Moscow on Tuesday after a four-hour meeting with Germany’s Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, is the latest Western leader to visit the region to try to de-escalate tensions.
When asked about the prospect of war, Putin told the press:
“Do we want this or not? Of course, not. That is exactly why we put forward proposals for a process of negotiations.”
But the two leaders clashed when Putin said there was a precedent for war in Europe – the conflict in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s – which Putin said was waged by NATO against Serbia without UN Security Council approval.
Scholz in defence, said the situation was different because there was a plan by thr Serbs to commit genocide against non-Serbs, to which Putin alleged taht what was happening in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region – where Russia is backing separatists was also a genocide, against ethnic Russians.
Olaf later told the press that Putin was wrong to use the word genocide in this case.
Putin also said that Nato had so far failed to address Russia’s “basic” security concerns. He is demanding that the issue of Ukraine joining Nato be addressed now.
Scholz said the build up of troops was “incomprehensible”, but there was still a chance that diplomatic solutions could ease the tensions.
” I expressed that the troop build up is seen as a threat,” Scholz said at the media briefing.”
Of course we are very concerned, there are more than a 100,000 Russian troops on the border with Ukraine, and we find this incomprehensible.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that there were “mixed signals” coming from Russia, because UK intelligence showed Russian field hospitals were being built near the border which could “only be construed as a preparation for an invasion”.