Russia would welcome another conversation between President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a call with journalists on Thursday.
The two presidents last spoke on December 31, the second time in a month that they had attempted to defuse the situation in Ukraine, where Russia has amassed 100,000 troops along the border.
“We also do not rule out another communication between the two presidents. We believe that in any case, such communication can only be welcomed, it is useful for both states,” Peskov said.
“We also do not exclude that after we manage to get acquainted with the [US response Russia’s requested security guarantees], the heads of state will consider it appropriate to contact each other and discuss.”
Peskov said such a meeting would only take place after Russia had had a chance to review the US written response to its requested security guarantees. On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he would not provide Moscow with a written response to their demands, when he meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday.
On Wednesday, Biden predicted Russia “will move in” to Ukraine, citing existential concerns by Putin, even as he acknowledged disunity within the NATO military alliance over how to respond to a “minor incursion.”
Peskov went on to say there had been some positive signs from the US and NATO, but said one of Moscow’s priorities still had not been addressed: Ukraine’s potential accession to NATO.
“The non-admission of Ukraine to NATO in the short term does not mean the rejection of Ukraine’s admission [to the alliance] in the medium term,” he said. “All that should be clarified.”
The Kremlin spokesman also reiterated that threats of sanctions against Russia were heard daily and said they did not help reduce tensions.
“We believe that they do not contribute in any way to defusing the tension that has now arisen in Europe,” he said. “Moreover, all these statements can contribute to the destabilization of the situation.”
Biden’s candid assessment on Wednesday laid bare the struggle the US faces in creating meaningful consequences and deterrents for Moscow, which remains closely intertwined economically with the United States’ top European partners.
The remark elicited near-immediate outcry in Kyiv, where officials have been meeting with Biden’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken. High-level attempts to clean-up the comment soon followed at the White House.
And on Thursday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted that “there are no minor incursions and small nations,” in what read like a response to Biden’s remarks.
“We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations,” Zelensky wrote. “Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones.”
Also on Thursday, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba responded to Biden in an online press briefing streamed on the foreign ministry’s official Facebook page.
“One can’t be half invaded or half aggressive. Aggression is either there or not. And we can say as a concrete fact that the aggression of the Russian Federation against the state of Ukraine has been going on since 2014,” said Kuleba, who added that he is ready for a tripartite meeting with the US and Russian foreign ministers.
For his part Blinken said at a press conference in Germany with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Thursday that the US and its allies can make “crystal clear the stark consequences” if Russia chooses to invade Ukraine.
“No matter which path Russia chooses, it will find the United States, Germany and our allies united,” said Blinken.
Asked about President Biden’s comments, Blinken said that “if any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border and commit new acts of aggression against Ukraine, that will be met with a swift, severe, united response from the United States and our allies and partners.”
CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Katharina Krebs, Michael Conte and Vasco Cotovio contributed to this report.