- Russia held tank drills near Ukraine on Tuesday amid fears it’s planning to invade.
- The drills occurred during a week of talks between Russia, the US, and Washington’s European allies.
- The Kremlin on Tuesday expressed pessimism that the discussions will be productive.
Russia held live-fire drills involving tanks and troops near Ukraine on Tuesday, Reuters reported, in a sign that Moscow is in no rush to ramp down its military presence close to its neighbor’s border.
The drills came as the Kremlin expressed pessimism about diplomatic discussions with the US aimed at staving off a broader conflict. Russia in recent months has gathered tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s border, prompting fears of an invasion.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday described the talks as “open, comprehensive and direct,” per the Associated Press, but added, “So far, let’s say we see no significant reason for optimism.”
A US and Russian delegation met for talks regarding Ukraine in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday. But no major breakthroughs were made as Russia continued to make demands regarding NATO that both the alliance and Washington have already made clear are nonstarters.
Russia has insisted that Ukraine and Georgia, two former Soviet republics it’s invaded within the past 15 years, be barred from ever becoming members of NATO. Both countries aim to join NATO, and maintain robust ties with the alliance. The US has repeatedly and firmly rejected Moscow’s sweeping demands.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the head of the US delegation, in a briefing on Monday told reporters that NATO “will not allow anyone to slam close NATO’s open door policy, which has always been central to the NATO alliance.”
NATO and Russia are set to meet in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday to continue the diplomatic talks about Ukraine, but both sides remain at odds on key issues.
“There are a range of discussions that can be a part of a diplomatic path, but ultimately it’s up to the Russians to determine about whether they’re going to take a serious approach,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday, underscoring that “it’s too early to tell whether the Russians are serious about the path to diplomacy or not.”
Following the NATO-Russia talks on Wednesday, the Ukraine crisis is also poised to be at the top of the agenda at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday.
The massive buildup of Russian troops on Ukraine’s border has heightened tensions between Moscow and the West to historic heights, adding to years of strained relations.
The Kremlin has repeatedly stated that it has no intention to invade, but the US and its allies are skeptical given recent history. Russia invaded and annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and has supported rebels in a war against Ukrainian forces in the Donbass region since that year.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed the West for the contentious dynamic, ignoring his own role in fostering the hostile state of affairs.
The US and its allies have warned Russia that it will face severe economic consequences if it invades Ukraine.