Putin: we don’t want conflict over Ukraine

MOSCOW, Dec 23 (Reuters) – Russia wants to avoid conflict with Ukraine and the West, President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

“This is not our (preferred) choice, we do not want this,” Putin said at his annual news conference.

Putin said Russia had received a generally positive response to security proposals it handed to the United States this month and that negotiations would start early next year in Geneva.

“I hope the development of the situation will proceed along that path,” he said.

Russia rejects Ukrainian and U.S. accusations that it may be preparing an invasion of Ukraine as early as next month by tens of thousands of Russian troops poised within reach of the border.

It says it needs pledges from the West – including a promise not to conduct NATO military activity in Eastern Europe – because its security is threatened by Ukraine’s growing ties with the Western alliance and the possibility of NATO missiles being deployed against it on Ukrainian territory.

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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