Baerbock visits Ukraine and Russia

Washington / Moscow (dpa) – In the midst of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) is going to Kiev and Moscow on Monday and Tuesday for inaugural visits.

Baerbock will meet President Volodymyr Selenskyj and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in the Ukrainian capital Kiev on January 17, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said in Berlin on Friday. She will continue in Moscow that evening. Talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are scheduled for Tuesday.

According to the spokesperson, one of the themes of the trip will be the effort to progress in the so-called Norman format. These negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, mediated by Germany and France, have long been on hold. The last time there was an executive-level meeting was in Paris in 2019.

Deputy government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann said that after talks between Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s (SPD) foreign policy adviser Jens Plötner and his French colleagues in Ukraine and Russia, there was optimism cautious about its success, initially at the level of diplomatic advisers. in Norman format.

The talks with Lavrov will also address the question of how security can be designed in Europe, “so that states do not feel threatened by each other,” said the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry. The Baerbock talks are not a continuation of those discussions which took place in other formats this week, he said in the context of the so far largely unsuccessful negotiations between the United States and Russia, within the NATO-Russia Council and within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Lavrov asks NATO and the USA

Baerbock’s trip to Ukraine will be on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, according to the spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry. In Kiev, Baerbock will also meet German representatives of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) observation mission. In addition, a discussion on the Ukrainian hydrogen strategy is planned.

In Moscow, the minister also wants to visit the German government-sponsored “Diversity United” exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery, the spokesperson said. The exhibition opened in Russia last November as part of the Year of Germany. The exhibition, which is now on display in Moscow after its Berlin premiere, is also devoted to controversial issues such as gender identity and the quest for freedom in Russia.

After negotiations on demands for security guarantees from Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov calls for a swift written reaction from NATO and the United States. “We are waiting for a response, a response from our colleagues on paper,” Lavrov said Friday at a press conference in Moscow earlier this year. He complained about the West’s lack of courtesy during talks this week in Geneva, Brussels and Vienna.

The minister accused the alliance of continuing on a divisive path – especially in light of recent statements on the possible acceptance of the Scandinavian countries into the alliance. This is an “artificial expansion” of a NATO that practically lost its raison d’être with the end of the Cold War more than 30 years ago. The West also despises Lavrov’s point of view on international law and aims to build a new world order.

More Russian military maneuvers

“We need legally binding guarantees. Oral promises have never been kept by our Western partners,” Lavrov said of Moscow’s demand for binding security guarantees. Concretely, Russia wants to stop the expansion of NATO towards the East and prevent the accession of the neighboring country, Ukraine, which threatens the country. Russia is open to “counter-proposals”.

The Russian army, for its part, organized new maneuvers. The Defense Ministry announced that there was an unannounced check on combat readiness in the Eastern Military District. He posted a video that showed columns of military vehicles and how tanks were loaded onto rail cars. Soldiers were taken to remote training sites. Emphasis was also placed on infrastructure “to ensure the transport of troops within a certain time frame”, he said.

The United States had only this week accused Russia of making no effort to ease the tension in the Ukraine conflict. Russia continues to have around 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine, US Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith of US broadcaster CNN said. More than 10,000 soldiers had already started maneuvers at more than 20 training sites in southern Russia on Wednesday.

US warns against escalation

The United States recently warned Moscow urgently against further escalation of the Ukrainian conflict. US President Joe Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said: “The risk of a military invasion is certain to be high.” The secret services have not yet come to the conclusion “that the Russians have finally decided on military action in Ukraine”. Sullivan again called on Moscow to defuse and reduce the number of troops in the region.

The US security adviser said: “We and our allies are prepared for any eventuality.” This applies both to diplomatic negotiations and in the event that Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks military escalation. “We have made clear to Russia the costs and consequences of further military action or of Ukraine’s destabilization,” he added. Sullivan again threatened Moscow with economic and financial sanctions, export control measures and Ukrainian armaments “if the Russian army crosses the Ukrainian border”.

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht warned Russia of the consequences of an attack on Ukraine. “Russia does not have a veto on alliance issues and cannot blackmail us here either,” the SPD politician told the Bundestag on Friday. But between the red lines and a military conflict, there is a lot of leeway that must be exhausted. “We must use all means to defuse this conflict.”

Representatives of the 30 NATO countries and Russia on Wednesday spoke for the first time in two and a half years – about the conflict in Ukraine and the security guarantees that Moscow demands from the transatlantic military alliance. A meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) also took place on Thursday. A high-level meeting of representatives of Russia and the United States was held in Geneva on Monday.

Russia sees its security threatened by NATO and therefore calls for an end to NATO’s expansion to the East and, in particular, to renounce the admission of Ukraine. The United States categorically rejects such a commitment. Western states, on the other hand, are alarmed by the deployment of Russian troops near Ukraine.

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