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Russia responds in writing to US ahead of Blinken-Lavrov call on Ukraine crisis

<i>Richard Drew/AP</i><br/>Linda Thomas-Greenfield
Richard Drew/AP
Linda Thomas-Greenfield

By Jennifer Hansler, CNN

The United States has received a written response from Moscow after it sent its own written answers following face-to-face meetings on the ongoing Ukraine crisis, the latest development in the ongoing diplomatic campaign aimed at deterring a potential Russian invasion of the country.

But the Kremlin said Tuesday that Russia had not sent its “main reply” to the US over Russia’s security concerns, saying there had been a “mix-up” over the issue.

“There was a mix-up,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with reporters when asked to confirm the US had received a formal Russian response to a document delivered last week by Washington. “It [Russian correspondence] regarded a different matter. The main reply on this issue hasn’t been handed over, it’s still being prepared.”

State Department officials confirmed Monday they had “received a written follow-up from Russia” to a document sent in response to Russian security demands over NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe.

Moscow’s response comes days after Washington submitted its own documents to Moscow and ahead of a planned phone call between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Tuesday.

“It would be unproductive to negotiate in public, so we’ll leave it up to Russia if they want to discuss their response,” the spokesperson said. “We remain fully committed to dialogue to address these issues and will continue to consult closely with our Allies and partners, including Ukraine.”

Public reactions to those US written responses — in which administration officials said the US voiced willingness to work with Russia on things like arms control but refused to give room on NATO’s “open door” policy — have been largely pessimistic.

It is unclear if Moscow’s written response, first reported by the Washington Post, was received before or after Monday’s UN Security Council meeting over Moscow’s escalation along the border with Ukraine, which ended in a standoff between the US and Russia.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters following the session, in which the US accused Russia of planning to mass tens of thousands of troops along the Belarus-Ukraine border, that the US “called for this meeting to allow the Russians to give us an explanation of what their actions are.”

“We didn’t hear much,” she said. “They didn’t give us the answers that any of us would have hoped that they would provide.”

The open meeting at the UN headquarters in New York proceeded Monday despite opposition from China and Russia.

US officials have repeatedly urged Moscow to take a diplomatic path forward, warning that a renewed invasion of Ukraine would result in swift and significant sanctions — a message reiterated by President Joe Biden on Monday while the meeting was underway.

Tense UN meeting

In her remarks to the Security Council Monday, Thomas-Greenfield said, “We continue to hope Russia chooses the path of diplomacy over the path of conflict in Ukraine. But we cannot just ‘wait and see.’ It is crucial that this Council address the risk that their aggressive and destabilizing behavior poses across the globe.”

She spoke of Russia’s buildup of more than 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine, as well as US intelligence that Russia has moved nearly 5,000 troops into Belarus and intends to mass “more than 30,000 troops near the Belarus-Ukraine border … by early February.”

“If Russia further invades Ukraine, none of us will be able to say we didn’t see it coming. And the consequences will be horrific,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzia claimed UN colleagues are “whipping up tensions and rhetoric,” saying that the US and others wanted conflict to take place.

“This deployment of Russian troops in our own territory is getting our Western and US colleagues to say that there’s going to be a planned military action and even an act of aggression … the military action of Russia against Ukraine that they’re all assuring us is going to take place in just a few weeks’ time if not a few days’ time. There, however, is no proof confirming such a serious accusation whatsoever being put forward,” he said in translated remarks at the meeting.

“You are almost calling for this, you want it to happen. You’re waiting for it to happen, as if you want to make your words become a reality. This is despite the fact that we are constantly rejecting these allegations and this is despite the fact that no threat of a planned invasion into Ukraine from the lips of any Russian politician or public figure over all of this period has been made,” Nebenzia said.

Thomas-Greenfield responded that it was Moscow that was being provocative, not the US or its Security Council partners.

“We have made clear our commitment to the path of diplomacy. I hope our Russian colleagues will also choose this path and engage peacefully with the international community, including Ukraine,” she said.

This story has been updated with additional details and developments.

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CNN’s Kylie Atwood, Laura Ly and Michael Conte contributed to this report.

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