Putin says US, NATO have 'ignored' Russia's security demands on Ukraine: What we know

WASHINGTON – Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Kremlin's "fundamental concerns have been ignored" in its demands over Ukraine, his first comments on the crisis in over a month.

Putin said in a speech Tuesday that Moscow hadn't seen "adequate consideration" from the U.S. and NATO on its demands that NATO promise to halt its expansion in Europe, and that the U.S. pull back its missile systems in its eastern member countries and remove itself from Europe's security order.

Putin demanded that NATO retract the military alliance back to a "1997 status quo," indicating that at least 14 countries, including the Baltic states, Poland and Romania, would need to withdraw from the bloc to meet the Kremlin's demands.

"NATO refers to the right of countries to choose freely, but you cannot strengthen someone's security at the expense of others," Putin said. He said Moscow had been "swindled, basically lied to" in the past about the possibility of NATO's eastward expansion.

Putin's comments came after high-level talks between the U.S. and Russia broke little new ground as the threat of the war looms over Ukraine amid a significant Russian buildup of troops on its border.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken "urged immediate Russian de-escalation and the withdrawal of troops and equipment from Ukraine’s borders" in a 30-minute call Tuesday call with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, according to State Department spokesman Ned Price.

Blinken stressed in the meeting that if Russia was not going to invade Ukraine, then now was the time for it to pull back its forces from the border, according to a senior State Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly.

"We've been clear that we think the only resolution to this crisis is a diplomatic solution," the official said. But diplomacy "doesn't mean we are not preparing for a different outcome that we think would be tragic," the official cautioned.

Blinken and Lavrov discussed the U.S. written response to the Kremlin's security demands, which the Biden administration and NATO allies consider nonstarters.

Reiterating the Biden administration's long-held policy on the standoff, Blinken also said the U.S. will work to find common ground "on mutual security concerns," although the statement did not outline any new understanding between the governments.

Diplomacy continues elsewhere around Europe as NATO and the U.S. work to bolster the military alliance's eastern members and Ukraine prepares for the worst.

Putin is hosting Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orbán, his closest ally in the European Union, on Tuesday. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was taking a break from his troubles at home to meet in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The Kremlin also announced Putin's previously contemplated in-person meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron is “in the foreseeable future.”

Russia disputes reports it responded to US

Meanwhile, Russian officials on Tuesday denied reports that Moscow sent Washington a written response to a U.S. proposal aimed at de-escalating the Ukraine showdown, a day after the two countries exchanged sharp accusations at the U.N. Security Council.

The Kremlin seeks legally binding guarantees from the U.S. and NATO that Ukraine will never join the bloc, that deployment of NATO weapons near Russian borders will be halted, and that the alliance's forces will be rolled back from Eastern Europe.

The demands have been rejected by NATO and the U.S. 

State of play:Will Russia invade Ukraine? Talks, timing, desire for a long fight factor into strategy

Washington has provided Moscow with a written response to the demands, and on Monday, three Biden administration officials said the Russian government sent a written response to the U.S. proposals. The State Department hasn't offered details about the document, and one State Department official told  The Associated Press that it "would be unproductive to negotiate in public" and that the U.S. would leave it up to Russia to discuss the counterproposal.

But Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told Russia's state RIA Novosti news agency Tuesday that this was "not true." 

Ukrainian lawmakers hold state flags of Ukraine's partners to show their appreciation of political support and military aid during a session of parliament in Kyiv, Ukraine, on  Feb. 1, 2022.

The agency also cited an unnamed senior diplomat in the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying Lavrov sent a message to his Western colleagues, including Blinken, about "the principle of indivisibility of security," but it wasn't a response to Washington's proposals. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday that there has been "confusion" and said Russia's response to the U.S. proposals was still in the works. What was passed on to Western officials "were other considerations, on a somewhat different issue," Peskov said. 

More:What are Joe Biden's options with Russia in Ukraine? That all depends on Putin's next move.

Ukraine's army will grow

In the meantime, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a decree Tuesday expanding his country's army by 100,000 troops, bringing the total number to 350,000. 

Zelenskyy, who in recent days sought to calm the nation amid fears of an imminent invasion, said Tuesday that he signed "this decree not because of a war." "This decree is so that there is peace soon and further down the line," the president said.

Ukraine’s security chief said Russian forces massed on the border haven't made the kind of preparations that signal an imminent invasion, and he warned that sowing panic could lead to internal unrest that would benefit Moscow.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told The Associated Press that about 120,000 Russian troops are concentrated near Ukraine and Moscow, but said an imminent invasion would require massive preparations that would be easily spotted.

A Ukrainian soldier walks along a snow covered trench on the front line with the Russia-backed separatists near Verkhnetoretskoye village, in the Donetsk region.

“We can’t allow panic in the country,” Danilov told AP. “It’s very difficult for us to maintain control over the economic situation when all the media keep saying that the war will start tomorrow. Panic is a sister of defeat.”

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin hopes to achieve his goal of destroying Ukraine through internal destabilization even without an invasion.

Contributing: The Associated Press