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U.S. responds to Russia's demands, seeks dialogue

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“Today, Ambassador Sullivan delivered our written response in Moscow…”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said the U.S. delivered written replies to sweeping Russian security demands, seeking to avoid a conflict at the Ukrainian border that some experts have said could be the biggest since World War Two.

“All told, it sets out a serious diplomatic path forward, should Russia choose it.”

Blinken said that while the document offers areas where the two countries may find common ground, the U.S. would not concede to Russia’s request that Ukraine be blocked from joining the NATO alliance.

“NATO’s door is open, remains open, and that is our commitment.”

Whether Russian president Vladimir Putin is prepared to accept the U.S.’s proposals will determine the next phase of the crisis, in which Moscow has massed around 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine while denying it plans to invade.

Russia staged new military drills on land and on the Black Sea and moved more paratroopers and fighter jets to Belarus, north of Ukraine, for what it describes as joint exercises there next month.

Ukraine said Russia was trying to sow panic. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister said Moscow had not yet massed sufficient forces for a large-scale offensive, but that did not mean it could not do so later.

Earlier on Wednesday, responding to comments by U.S. President Joe Biden that he would consider imposing sanctions personally on Putin, Russia said such a move would not hurt the Kremlin leader but would be "politically destructive".

When asked, Blinken confirmed that personal sanctions on Putin, though a rare step, were an option.

“When it comes to sanctions, I think as you heard the President say, everything is on the table….”

Blinken said he expects to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about the document in the coming days to discuss next steps.

“Right now, the document is with them and the ball is in their court. Whether they choose the path of diplomacy and dialogue, whether they decide to renew aggression against Ukraine, we’re prepared either way.”

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