FRONT PAGES: Putin Claims Russia Doesn’t Want To War With Ukraine, But Urges The West To Quickly Meet His Demands – NBC News

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Russian president Vladimir Putin attempted to turn the tables against the West at his annual year-end news conference on Thursday. He blamed the United States and its allies high tensions over Ukraine and suggested that “the ball was in their” to fulfill Moscow demands The Russian leader stated that it was up to NATO and the U.S. to quickly provide the security guarantee Moscow requested last week. However, he said he does not want to start a new armed conflict.

“The ball is in their court,” Putin told more than 500 Russian and foreign reporters in attendance at the marathon event. “They need to respond to us with something.”

Russia has massed some 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, prompting fears of an invasion as early as next month, but has repeatedly denied that it has any plans to attack its neighbor.

Putin sounded optimistic about the response to the security demands issued by the Kremlin last week, which called for NATO to halt its eastward expansion as well as for legally-binding security guarantees that certain offensive weapons will not be deployed to Russia’s neighboring countries. The Russian leader stated that Washington seemed ready to start negotiations in Geneva next year around its proposals, but it is unlikely that the U.S. or its allies will provide the guarantees he needs.

Russia wants to be guaranteed its security, both now and in the future. He said that he won’t allow NATO to expand eastward to include Ukraine.

Offering an aggressively Russian view of history to back up these security concerns, Putin said Ukraine was “created” by Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union. He also claimed NATO had “fooled Russia” with five expansion waves since the Cold War. Putin also scorned America for moving closer to Russia’s doorstep, adding that sometimes it seems Moscow and Washington live in “different universes.”

” Putin stated that he is demanding guarantees from him. You should be offering guarantees. You should give guarantees immediately. “

Biden administration representatives are ready to start talks with Russia in January. However, they stated Wednesday that a date and place have not been set. The official stated that there are some areas of concern that Putin raised that the U.S. is open to discussing, but that other demands from Russia remain on the table. This includes any talk about changing borders or taking steps that would violate the sovereignty of another country. The official stated that while there are certain issues Russia has raised that the U.S. believes we can discuss and others they know we won’t agree to, that they have their own concerns that we need to raise, that is what diplomacy is, that’s what a negotiation is, and that’s what we plan to do. “That is what diplomacy is, that’s what a negotiation is, and that’s what we plan to undertake.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this week that Washington was working with its European allies to address what he called “Russian aggression” with diplomacy, but said President Joe Biden opposes the kind of guarantees sought by Putin.

Biden warned Putin in a virtual call earlier this month that Russia will face “severe consequences” if it attacks Ukraine.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, drawing condemnation and sanctions from the West. Shortly after Moscow backed a separatist rebellion in the country’s east, where fighting has killed over 14,000 people and devastated Ukraine’s industrial heartland.

A Ukrainian soldier on the front line in the country’s east, where Russia has backed a separatist rebellion through seven years of fighting. Andriy Dubchak / AP

Putin has held the marathon event, where he answers questions on a range of subjects, every year since he became president in 2001. Since 2004, each news conference has been at least three hours long, with the longest coming in last year at 4.5 hours.

This year’s event comes amid growing concerns about the military buildup, but also as the Kremlin faces internal challenges in the shape of surging Covid-19 numbers, economic recovery and a crackdown on dissent that has drawn international criticism.

The annual news conference is a pillar of Putin’s domestic image building, and something of a fixture in the holiday season in Russia, designed to portray the 69-year-old president as a transparent and caring leader.

Before Putin addressed the media Thursday, Russia’s Covid death toll passed the 600,000 mark, according to a Reuters tally. According to a Reuters tally, Russia has had difficulty containing the epidemic and is currently at the third highest death toll worldwide. It also has the lowest vaccination rate which has hindered its ability to recover from it.

In the last year, the country has also faced the largest crackdown on the free press and political dissent since the Soviet era, with a growing number of opposition political figures and media outlets facing “foreign agent” designations, and Russia’s opposition leader Alexei Navalny imprisoned on what his supporters say are trumped-up charges after being poisoned with a nerve agent.

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