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Russia Threatens Retaliation on Demands01/26 06:06

   Russia warned Wednesday it would quickly take "retaliatory measures" if the 
U.S. and its allies reject its security demands and continue their "aggressive" 
policies, ratcheting up pressure on the West amid concerns that Moscow is 
planning to invade Ukraine.

   MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia warned Wednesday it would quickly take "retaliatory 
measures" if the U.S. and its allies reject its security demands and continue 
their "aggressive" policies, ratcheting up pressure on the West amid concerns 
that Moscow is planning to invade Ukraine.

   Russia has repeatedly denied it has any such designs, but the United States 
and its NATO allies are worried because Russia has massed an estimated 100,000 
troops near Ukraine's border and launched a series of war games in the region.

   At the heart of the standoff are questions about Ukraine's future: Russia 
has demanded guarantees that NATO will never admit the country and other 
ex-Soviet nations as members and that the alliance will roll back troop 
deployments in other former Soviet bloc countries. Some of these, like the 
membership pledge, are nonstarters for NATO, creating a seemingly intractable 
stalemate that many fear can only end in a war.

   Speaking to lawmakers Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said 
he and other top officials will advise President Vladimir Putin on the next 
steps after receiving written replies from the United States to the demands. 
Those answers are expected this week -- even though the U.S. and its allies 
have already made clear they will reject the top Russian demands.

   "If the West continues its aggressive course, Moscow will take the necessary 
retaliatory measures," he said.

   While Russia is currently waiting for the American reply, Lavrov indicated 
it wouldn't wait forever: "We won't allow our proposals to be drowned in 
endless discussions," he said.

   Asked by lawmakers if Russia could expand military cooperation with Cuba, 
Venezuela and Nicaragua, Lavrov responded that Moscow has close ties with those 
countries. Earlier this month, Lavrov's deputy pointedly refused to rule out 
the deployment of Russian military assets to Cuba and Venezuela -- far closer 
to the U.S. than Ukraine -- if Moscow's security demands aren't met.

   NATO said this week it was bolstering its deterrence in the Baltic Sea 
region and the U.S. ordered 8,500 troops on higher alert for potential 
deployment to Europe. Western nations have also sent planeloads of weapons to 
help Ukraine strengthen its defenses.

   Amid the escalating tensions, Ukrainian officials have sought to calm nerves.

   Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wednesday that while the 
concentration of Russian troops near Ukraine poses a threat, "their number is 
now insufficient for a large-scale offensive."

   "They are still missing some key military elements and systems to mount a 
big, full-scale offensive," Kuleba told reporters.

   As others have, he noted that causing alarm could be an end in itself. 
Russia, he said, hopes to destabilize Ukraine by "spreading panic, raising 
pressure on Ukraine's financial system and launching cyberattacks."

   "President Putin would be happy to see that plan succeed so that he doesn't 
even need to turn to military force to put Ukraine in a vulnerable position," 
he said.

   His comments were latest from Ukrainian officials who have sought to 
reassure their citizens. Speaking late Tuesday in the second televised speech 
to the nation in as many days, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine was 
"strong enough to keep everything under control and derail any attempts at 
destabilization."

   Several rounds of high-stakes diplomacy have failed to yield any 
breakthroughs in the standoff, but another attempt was going forward Wednesday.

   Presidential advisers from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany are set to 
meet in Paris to discuss ways to revive a stalled peace agreement for eastern 
Ukraine.

   In 2014, following the ouster of a Kremlin-friendly president in Kyiv, 
Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and threw its weight behind a 
separatist insurgency in the country's eastern industrial heartland. Fighting 
between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels has killed over 14,000 
people, and efforts to reach a settlement have stalled.

   Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow expects a "good frank" talk 
at the Paris meeting.

   In addition to the military moves, the U.S. and its allies have threatened 
sanctions like never before if Moscow sends its troops into Ukraine, but they 
have given few details, saying it's best to keep Putin guessing.

   On Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters that Putin "continues to 
build forces along Ukraine's border," and an attack "would be the largest 
invasion since World War II. It would change the world." He warned that there 
would be serious economic consequences for Putin, including personal sanctions, 
in the event of an invasion.

   Asked to comment on Biden's statement, Peskov pointed out that the Russian 
president and other top officials don't have assets in the West but reaffirmed 
that such U.S. sanctions would be "politically destructive" for bilateral ties.

   Britain is also promising sanctions, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has 
urged European nations to do more to support Ukraine.

   The U.K. has sent anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, though it has ruled out 
sending combat troops.

   "We'll be legislating to toughen up our sanctions regime and make sure we 
are fully able to hit both individuals and companies and banks in Russia in the 
event of an incursion," she told the BBC. "What's important is that all of our 
allies do the same."

   Amid the soaring tensions, the U.S., Britain, Australia, Germany and Canada 
have also moved to withdraw some of their diplomats and dependents from Kyiv.

 
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