Russia’s Putin Says ‘We Don’t Want War in Europe’ But Doubts Remain
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
MOSCOW/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday, “we don’t want war in Europe,” but doubts remained despite Moscow announcing a partial pullback of forces near Ukraine.
A U.S. senior security source told Worthy News earlier that Russian mercenaries including from the paramilitary Wagner group, were already in eastern Ukraine. “They want to create a pretext for an invasion, by even attacking pro-Russian separatists fighting there,” he claimed.
The U.S. diplomat, with close knowledge about military operations, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues. Other media outlets, including Reuters news agency, confirmed Worthy News exclusive reporting citing several security sources Monday.
The diplomat also told Worthy News there are American forces in Ukraine and “tens of thousands” of U.S. military personnel across Eastern Europe and the Baltics. The White House officially denied sending “combat troops” to Ukraine and spoke about thousands of troops in Eastern Europe.
Russia said it has “no intention” to invade Ukraine, which Putin reiterated after meeting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Moscow. Both men agreed to discuss Moscow’s security concerns further.
Putin admitted that the U.S. and allies rejected Moscow’s demand to keep Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations out of the NATO military alliance and halt weapons and deployments near Russian borders.
Yet, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced a withdrawal of some of the 130.000-150.000 troops after drills near Ukraine’s borders.
It was unclear how many units were being withdrawn and by what distance, following the Russian military build-up to the north, east, and south of Ukraine
Asked about the possibility of war, Putin responded: “We do not want war in Europe.”
The Russian president also referred to Scholz’s comment that “people of this generation find it hard to imagine war in Europe.”
“That is exactly why we have made our proposals, to start a process of discussion over equal security for everybody,” Putin stressed.
On NATO, Putin said that “countries have the right to join military alliances as our colleagues in NATO always maintain. But it is also important to maintain one’s security not at the cost of the security of other countries.”
“We are also willing to continue the discussion process,” the Russian president added.
That was music to the ears of recently elected German Chancellor Scholz on his inaugural visit to Moscow. “The most important thing is that we manage relations between countries through good discussions with each other,” Scholz said as he met Putin.
Scholz stressed he was glad the two leaders were able to meet face to face, although socially distanced, five meters (16.4 feet) apart at a vast round table amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The German leader said the build-up of Russian troops at the Ukrainian border “can be seen as a threat.” However, “we now hear that more troops are being withdrawn. That is a positive signal, and we hope more will follow,” he added.
“For Europeans, it is clear that lasting security cannot be achieved against Russia but only with Russia,” Scholz stressed.
The chancellor warned, however, that the “inviolability of borders … is not to be negotiated,” referring to Ukraine.
“Dialogue cannot end in a cul de sac; that would be a disaster for everyone. It is important to go the road of diplomacy so as to avoid war in Europe,” Scholz noted.
The developments rallied financial markets and came amid prayers for peace ranging from Pope Francis to Christians in Ukraine gathering for a Pentecostal-type church service.
It was not clear when and if Russia’s claimed withdrawal of troops would help to overcome fighting in Ukraine’s Donbas area between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces that killed 14,000 people.
The West has also condemned Moscow for annexing Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014 though Putin made clear that territory “is regarded as Russian.”
Yet with tensions over a possible massive invasion perhaps somewhat easing, Putin mentioned bilateral economic ties, with Germany being Russia’s second-biggest trade partner after China.
Regarding the Germany-backed Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, he said, “let me clarify that we are willing to continue shipping gas through Ukraine beyond 2024.”
The West had been concerned that Nord Stream 2 could sidestep Ukraine, which relies on revenues from natural gas deliveries through the country.
Putin also said he was ready to discuss reinstating the recently withdrawn broadcast license of Germany’s broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Moscow canceled the permission after the Kremlin-backed broadcaster Russia Today (RT) failed to obtain a license in Germany.
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