Russia says it does not want war over Ukraine

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Russia says it does not want war over Ukraine

MOSCOW, Jan 28, Reuters -- Russia has reiterated that it does not want war over Ukraine, and sent its strongest signal so far that it is willing to engage with U.S. security proposals.

If it depends on Russia, there will be no war. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian radio stations that they wouldn't allow their interests to be ignored and rudely trampled.

Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops near the Ukrainian border as it presses for a redrawing of post-Cold War security arrangements in Europe.

The United States and its allies have warned President Vladimir Putin that Russia will face tough economic sanctions if he attacks Ukraine.

Lavrov said the West was ignoring Russia's interests, but there was at least one written response submitted by the United States and NATO on Wednesday to Russia's proposals.

Both of the responses have said they are willing to engage with Moscow on arms control and confidence-building measures, despite the fact that they have not been made public. They have ruled out acceding to other demands, including that Ukraine must never be allowed to join NATO.

Lavrov expects to meet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the next couple of weeks.

He said, without giving details, that the U.S. counter-proposals were better than NATO's. Russia was studying them and Putin would decide how to respond.

Moscow has made some of the most pleasant comments on the Ukraine crisis, which has escalated into one of the tensest East-West standoffs since the Cold War ended three decades ago.

On Friday, the Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, close ally of Russia, said his country had absolutely no interest in a war and that conflict would only occur if Belarus or Russia were directly attacked.

French President Emmanuel Macron is due to speak to Putin by phone on Friday.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told RTL radio that it was up to Vladimir Putin to decide if he wants to be a destabilising power or to seek de-escalation.

The Kremlin said it would not rule out that Putin would give some Russian assessments of the Western response to its proposals during the conversation.