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Between Moscow and the West, a very light relaxation around Ukraine

Confused, contradictory and subject to often divergent interpretations, the signals around the standoff that Moscow started this fall over Ukraine continue to pour in. And seem to indicate a very slight relaxation … in the face of Russian requests with the air of ultimatum.

While the Western powers have been worried for several weeks about the stationing of nearly 100,000 Russian troops near the Ukrainian border, the secretary of the Ukrainian national security council Oleksiy Danilov described in an interview with AFP. ” unlikely “ the hypothesis of a short-term invasion.

→ READ. In eastern Ukraine, the great fatigue of war

Berlin, at the same time, announced that it was preparing direct negotiations with Moscow as early as next month on the subject of “Security guarantees” claimed by Vladimir Poutine, following Washington, which had already said it was ready for such discussions.

Nearly 10,000 soldiers return to their bases

Something to satisfy the Russian president, who welcomed a reaction on December 23 during his traditional annual press conference « positive » the United States, “Ready to discuss from the start of the year in Geneva”. Moscow had a week earlier published two draft agreements with the United States as well as with NATO under which Washington would commit to “Prevent the extension to the east of NATO and prohibit the states of the former USSR from joining the alliance”.

A request a priori unacceptable for Western countries but which, associated with the increasingly virulent rhetoric of Moscow, prompted Washington to want to open the discussion. “The ball is in their court, they have to give us an answer”, the Russian president added on December 23. On Sunday December 26, the Russian Defense Ministry announced the end of an exercise in its southern military district, not far from the Ukrainian border, and the return of nearly 10,000 soldiers to their bases.

Donbass, a “historically Russian” region, according to Moscow

Difficult, however, to still speak of real appeasement as the positions of Moscow and NATO remain diametrically opposed. “The relationship between NATO and Ukraine will be decided by the 30 NATO members as well as Ukraine, and no one else”, on December 10 evacuated Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of the military alliance.

Few signs of appeasement also on the side of the rhetoric of the Russian president: a few months after assuring that the Ukrainians and Russians were one and the same people, Vladimir Putin described, on December 23, as “Historically Russian” Donbass, a region in eastern Ukraine partly controlled since 2014 by separatist groups under Moscow control. And demanded an answer “Immediate” the demands for security guarantees formulated by Moscow.

In its statements, the Kremlin also raises the specter of a Ukrainian offensive against separatist groups, and in turn refers to the presence of foreign mercenaries in Ukraine, numbering nearly 4,000. “Military instructors” Americans on the front line of the Donbass, and even the possibility of chemical attacks prepared by Kiev.

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