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Putin bets on dialogue, but says Russia’s next moves depend on the West’s responses to his demands

Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at the Kremlin together with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said he is “ready to follow the path of negotiations” after his military reportedly withdrew 10,000 troops from the Ukrainian border but set clear conditions for de-escalation. 

While he repeated he did not want to go to war, he did not commit to a complete withdrawal of troops and said Russia’s next moves in the standoff would depend on how the situation evolves.

Putin continues to accuse the West of ignoring his demand that Ukraine be excluded from NATO, stop arms deployments near Russia’s borders and pull back forces from Eastern Europe, thereby significantly reducing concerns about its security.

“We want to solve this issue now as part of negotiation process through peaceful means,” Putin said. “We very much hope that our partners hear our concerns and take them seriously,” the Associated Press quoted him as saying. 

Meanwhile, the United States and NATO, which rejected the Kremlin’s demands, warned that more than 130,000 Russian forces are massed near Ukraine and could invade at any time, prompting them to send troops and military supplies.

On Monday, the U.S., in a sign that it considers the threat of a Russian attack genuine, ordered the temporary closure of its embassy in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, through the State Department.

Some English media even launched headlines about an imminent attack on Kyiv in the early hours of Wednesday, Feb. 16, based on alleged U.S. intelligence information. 

The Mirror headlined, “Russian invasion of Ukraine set for ‘3 a.m. tomorrow’ with missile and tank attack,’” and as The Sun, reported U.S. intelligence estimated the most likely time for the invasion to be 3 a.m. local time (1 a.m. U.K. time).

But after the meeting with Putin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz assured that diplomatic negotiations are “far from exhausted” and said that the withdrawal of troops is a “good sign,” He expects the withdrawal to continue. 

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is hopeful that diplomacy will end the confrontation between Russia and the West. However, he stressed that they have not yet seen a concrete withdrawal of Russian forces. 

“So far, we have not seen any de-escalation on the ground, we have not seen any signs of reduced Russian military presence on the border with Ukraine,” he said. “But we will continue to monitor and to follow closely what Russia is doing,” he said Tuesday during a press conference ahead of a meeting with defense ministers of member states.

Earlier, Putin accused NATO of having deceived Russia with a promise that it would not expand into the space left after the collapse of the Soviet Union. “Not an inch to the East they told us in the 1990s, and look what happened—they cheated us, vehemently and blatantly,” he said, according to RT.

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