After a bitter public clash on the global stage, the standoff between Russia and the United States over Ukraine took on a more diplomatic note Tuesday as the top diplomats from both countries spoke over the phone about their security concerns.
On the call, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed the United States’ written response last week to Russia’s security demands, the State Department said in a news release. Blinken stressed Washington’s willingness to continue “a substantive exchange” with Russia on mutual security concerns, the department’s spokesman, Ned Price, said in the release.
The secretary of state also re-emphasized the U.S. “commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and again urged Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine’s borders, Price said.
The call following Monday’s fractious United Nations showdown came as part of a day of high-level diplomacy between Moscow and the West in a continued effort to ward off a potential Russian invasion of its neighbor.
However, the Kremlin denied Tuesday that it had delivered its highly anticipated verdict on Washington’s counterproposals to its sweeping demands, suggesting the world will have to keep waiting for any clear sign of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next move.
Also on Tuesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was due to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after flying to the country’s capital, Kyiv.
The U.K., Poland and Ukraine are preparing a trilateral pact to strengthen regional security, Kyiv said on Tuesday.
Putin, meanwhile, is holding a news conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán following a meeting between the two leaders. It may be the first time the Russian leader will speak publicly about the Ukraine situation since late December.
Putin is also in talks with France for a face-to-face meeting with President Emmanuel Macron after their call Monday night.
Despite all of this, there appeared to be little movement in the tense standoff on Europe’s eastern flank.
Russia has tabled a list of demands that would upend NATO and European security as a whole. They include effectively barring Ukraine from ever joining NATO, something deemed out of the question by the trans-Atlantic alliance.
The U.S. and NATO sent a written counterproposal last week, and on Monday the State Department said it had received “a written follow-up from Russia.” It declined to share details of either document.
However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that there had been “confusion” and that Russia had sent Washington “notes on a different issue.”
He told reporters that “Russia’s main response on the major current topic has not been sent. This response is still being prepared.”