Russia has said talks with Nato over Ukraine were hitting a dead end, while threatening to take unspecified “necessary measures” if its demands were not met.
A volley of downbeat statements from Russian senior officials emerged as Poland’s foreign minister, Zbigniew Rau, warned that Europe faced its greatest risk of war in 30 years.
Rau was addressing the 57 nations of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the third time this week Russia has discussed security with western countries.
The Polish minister, who has taken over the OSCE chair, told reporters “I cannot say a breakthrough is imminent” in discussions on European security, while pledging to launch a dialogue. “Some of the participating states believe that it’s enough to make a statement and not to participate in debate,” he said, without naming countries.
“It seems that the risk of war in the OSCE area is now greater than ever before in the last 30 years,” Rau had told delegates earlier. “For several weeks we have been faced with the prospect of a major military escalation in eastern Europe.”
Russia has mobilised 100,000 troops and placed military hardware along its border with Ukraine, while issuing a series of security demands that Nato has said are impossible, such as removing troops from eastern members of the alliance and a block on any membership application from Kyiv.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, who led the Russian delegation in talks with the US on Monday, said the discussions were hitting a dead end. “I do not see any reason to sit down again in the coming days, to gather again and start these same discussions,” he was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
“We propose to go step by step through the text, to work on it in order to bring it to a stage where it would be ready to sign. This is impossible today, because on the key elements of these texts, the United States and its allies say categorically ‘no’.”
Speaking on Russian television, he did not exclude the possibility that Russia could deploy military hardware to Cuba or Venezuela, saying it “all depends on the actions by our US counterparts”.
Separately, Russia’s mission to the OSCE threatened the country would take “necessary measures” if the west did not respond to Russian demands. “If we don’t hear constructive response to our proposals within reasonable timeframe & aggressive behaviour towards [Russia] continues, we’ll have to take necessary measures to ensure strategic balance and eliminate unacceptable threats to our national security” Russia’s mission to the OSCE wrote on Twitter, citing its ambassador to the OSCE, Alexander Lukashevich.
The Russian OSCE mission also warned that “a crisis on the continent may arise with unpredictable consequences for European security”.
In Moscow, the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said there could be a complete rupture in US-Russian relations, if proposed sanctions targeting the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and other top civilian and military leaders were adopted. Senate Democrats have also proposed targeting leading Russian financial institutions if Moscow sends troops into Ukraine.
The EU is also drawing up possible sanctions, although has declined to reveal details.
Senior Russian officials met US counterparts on Monday and Nato on Wednesday, but talks have failed to yield results. Nato’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Wednesday the military alliance was ready to hold talks with Moscow on arms control and transparency over military exercises.
Russia’s foreign minister appeared to reject this offer. Ryabkov said there were nuances in the discussions, but on the main issue for Russia – non-expansion of Nato – the talks were “impenetrable, at least, for now”. He added: “This is worrying because we haven’t hidden that everything else depends on progress in this matter.”