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U.S. urges Russia to de-escalate troop buildup on Ukraine's border

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U.S. urges Russia to de-escalate troop buildup on Ukraine's border
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan urged de-escalation of troop buildup on Ukraine's border in phone call Monday with his Russian counterpart. File Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 20 (UPI) -- The United States urged Russia Monday to de-escalate troop buildup on Ukraine's border amid the Kremlin's warning of military response to NATO's expanding eastward to include Ukraine.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan advocated the move in a phone call with his Russian counterpart, Yuri Ushakov, The Hill reported.

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Sullivan "indicated U.S. readiness to engage in diplomacy through multiple channels, including bilateral engagement, the NATO-Russia Council and the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe," according to a White House statement on the call.

He added that dialogue must "take place in full coordination," with European allies, and "noted that substantive progress can only occur in an environment of de-escalation rather than escalation."

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The call came on the same day that a Russian diplomat demanded talks with the United States on NATO, and an arms control negotiator echoed his earlier warning of military response to NATO activities viewed as a threat.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called for the urgent talks with the United States to address security guarantees from NATO, The Moscow Times reported.

A few days earlier, Ryabkov made public a list of demands for treaties between Russia, the U.S.-led Western military bloc and the United States, which state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.

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The list showed concerns specifically about Ukraine and former Soviet land.

The demands included excluding further NATO expansion and Ukraine's accession to the alliance, and abandoning any NATO military activities in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, the Caucasian region of Central Asia.

"I think they will try to translate all this into a sluggish process, and we need it urgently, since the situation is very difficult, it is acute and has a tendency to further complicate," Ryabkov said Monday, stressing that Russia was willing to start negotiations immediately.

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Meanwhile, Konstantin Gavrilov, who heads Russia's delegation on military security and arms control talks in Vienna, echoed Ryabkov's earlier warning of military action from Moscow.

"The conversation should be serious, and everyone in NATO understands very well, despite all the strength and power, that it is necessary to take concrete political actions, otherwise the alternative is the military-technical and military responses of Russia," he said in a state television broadcast, Ria Novosti reported separately.

The European Union has rejected Russia's attempt to block Ukraine's NATO ambitions, The Moscow Times reported, but recently signaled a willingness to negotiate with Moscow.

"We need to solve the current tensions on the diplomatic level," Germany's new defense minister Christine Lambrecht said on Sunday while on a visit to German troops stationed in Lithuania, where Russia would like to see such troops removed, Financial Times reported.

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"We will discuss Russia's proposals. ... But it cannot be that Russia dictates to NATO partners their posture, and that is something that we will make very clear," Lembrecht said.

On Monday, the Kremlin also announced that President Vladimir Putin will host on Tuesday an expanded Russian Defense Ministry board meeting, where further priorities for the country's Army and Navy will be determined, TASS reported.

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