Senior Officials to Lead Russia-U.S. Security Talks in Geneva on Jan. 10

MOSCOW (Reuters) —
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. (Reuters/Fabrice Coffrini/Pool)

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will lead bilateral security talks in Geneva on Jan. 10, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, amid tensions over Ukraine.

In advance of the talks, which Russia hopes will eventually hand it new security guarantees, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden are due to discuss Ukraine and other subjects by phone later on Thursday.

The Kremlin said on Thursday that the call was taking place at Putin’s request.

“The purpose of the conversation is to continue discussion of all questions that were on the agenda of the fairly recent video call talks,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

In a telegram to Biden on Thursday, Putin said Russia and the United States must work together constructively and engage in dialogue based on mutual respect and consideration of each other’s national interests.

Russia has alarmed Western countries by massing tens of thousands of troops near its border with Ukraine in the past two months. Moscow denies planning to attack Ukraine and says it has the right to move its troops on its own soil as it sees fit.

Moscow, worried by what it says is the West’s re-arming of Ukraine, has said it wants legally-binding guarantees from the NATO military alliance over its eastern expansion and weapons deployment.

“During the talks we will seek firm legal guarantees on Russia’s security from the U.S. side, namely that NATO will not move eastwards and that weapons systems threatening Russia will not be deployed near our borders,” Maria Zakharova, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, told a briefing on Thursday.

Russia is set to hold talks with NATO in Brussels on Jan. 12, before a broader meeting on Jan. 13 involving the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which includes the United States and its NATO allies, as well as Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet states.

Zakharova said the Jan. 13 talks would take place in Vienna.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 and backed a pro-Russian separatist uprising that same year which saw Kyiv lose control over a swath of eastern Ukraine.

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