Johnson dials Putin to discuss Ukraine

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Johnson stresses that Ukraine had every right to apply to join NATO if it wished and that Kyiv should be included in any talks over the standoff with Russia, reports Asian Lite News

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in a phone call to work towards a “peaceful resolution” of the crisis over Ukraine, according to Downing Street.

“The leaders agreed that aggravation was in no one’s interest,” it said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that Johnson had warned Putin that any Russian invasion would be a “tragic miscalculation”.

Both leaders noted existing dialogue between their governments about issues including climate change, Afghanistan and the Iran nuclear deal, it said.

“They agreed to apply this spirit of dialogue to the current tensions in order to find a peaceful resolution.”

Johnson also stressed that Ukraine had every right to apply to join the “defensive alliance” of NATO if it wished, and that Kyiv should be included in any talks over the standoff with Russia.

The British prime minister visited Kyiv on Tuesday, warning after talks with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Russian forces massed on the border represented a “clear and present danger” to Ukraine.

Tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine have been building for weeks, with the West accusing Moscow of preparing an imminent invasion of its pro-Western neighbour.

Russia has denied any plans to invade but is demanding that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO and a series of other security guarantees against the US-led military alliance’s expansion in the ex-Soviet bloc.

US reinforcing troops

During their call, the pair also discussed “long-term” security guarantees for Moscow.

“The unwillingness of NATO to adequately respond to the well-founded Russian concerns was noted,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

Putin said NATO was “hiding behind” its open-door policy that “contradicts the fundamental principle of the indivisibility of security”, the statement said.

Meanwhile, the UK said at the weekend that it was preparing to offer NATO a “major” deployment of troops, weapons, warships and jets in Europe amid the tensions.

The offer could see London double the approximately 1,150 UK troops currently in Eastern European countries and “defensive weapons” sent to Estonia, along with anti-tank missiles given to Ukraine.

The offer came as the Pentagon announced on Wednesday that 1,000 US troops will be moved from Germany to Romania, while another 2,000 soldiers will be sent from the US state of North Caroline to Germany and Poland.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby explained the situation near Ukraine demanded the US to reinforce its deterrence and defence position on NATO’s eastern flank. He added the soon-to-deploy US forces are intended to temporarily bolster US and allied defensive positions and will not enter Ukraine.

“These are not permanent moves,” he said, stressing that the purpose is to reassure allies at a time of heightened tension over Russia’s buildup of an estimated 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders

Russia fired back with a sharply worded objection, calling the deployments unfounded and “destructive”.

“The unfounded destructive steps will only fuel military tensions and narrow the field for political decisions,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said in remarks carried by the Interfax news agency.

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