The Kremlin is ready for new negotiations with the West due to tensions in Ukraine

The Kremlin signaled it was ready to continue talks with the West about the security issues that led to the Ukraine crisis and expressed hope that Russia would not invade the beleaguered neighbor in the coming days, something the United States and Europe are increasingly fearful of.

But questions remain about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions, and European countries are evacuating diplomats and on alert for a possible imminent war amid the worst East-West tensions since the Cold War.

During a recent diplomatic trip, the German chancellor said there were “no reasonable reasons” for deploying more than 130,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders in the north, south and east, and called for dialogue.

Despite warnings from Washington, London and other sources that Russian troops could move into Ukraine at any moment, Putin’s meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday suggests otherwise.

Mr. Lavrov argued that Moscow should have more talks with the US and its allies, despite their refusal to consider Russia’s basic security requirements.

Moscow, which denies it has any plans to invade Ukraine, wants assurances from the West that NATO will not allow Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to become members.

He also wants the alliance to end its deployment of weapons in Ukraine and pull its forces out of Eastern Europe, something the West has flatly rejected.

The talks “can’t go on indefinitely, but I would suggest continuing and expanding them at this stage,” Lavrov said, noting that Washington had offered to engage in dialogue about restrictions on missile deployment in Europe, restrictions on military exercises and other confidence-building measures.

According to him, the possibilities for negotiations are “far from exhausted.”

His comments during a speech staged for television seemed intended to send a message to the world about Mr. Putin’s own position, namely that hopes for a diplomatic solution had not died yet.


Vladimir Putin (Aleksey Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin/AP)

Mr. Putin noted that the West could try to drag Russia into “endless negotiations” with no final results, and asked if there was still a chance of reaching an agreement on Moscow’s key demands.

Mr. Lavrov replied that his ministry would not allow the US and its allies to block Russia’s main demands.

In a call on Sunday, US President Joe Biden and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky agreed to continue pushing for containment and diplomacy. Mr. Zelenskiy’s office was also quoted as saying that a quick visit from Biden would help, a possibility that was not mentioned in the summary of the White House phone call.

Such a visit is unlikely, as there is currently a small US diplomatic staff stationed in Kiev.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Ukraine before heading to Moscow to talk with Mr. Putin about a high-stakes diplomatic foray.

After meeting with Mr. Zelensky, Mr. Scholz urged Moscow to show signs of de-escalation and repeated unspecified threats to Russia’s financial position if it invaded.


Olaf Scholz and Vladimir Zelensky (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

“There is no reasonable reason for such a military deployment,” Mr. Scholz said. “No one should doubt the determination and readiness of the EU, NATO, Germany and the US.”

Zelensky said: “It is in Ukraine that the future of the European security architecture, of which our state is a part, is being decided today.”

The people of Kiev received letters from the mayor urging them to “defend their city,” and signs appeared in apartment buildings indicating the nearest bomb shelter.

According to the mayor, there are about 4,500 such places in the capital, including underground garages, metro stations and basements.

NATO countries are building up forces in Eastern Europe. The German military said the first of 350 additional troops sent to support NATO forces in Lithuania were sent on Monday.

The US and its NATO allies have repeatedly warned that Russia will pay a heavy price for any invasion, but they have sometimes struggled to present a united front.

Mr. Scholz’s government has been particularly criticized for refusing to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine or clarify what sanctions it supports, raising questions about Berlin’s resolve. No new details from his visit to Kiev have emerged.