Moscow on Tuesday rejected fresh talks on Ukraine unless the West responds to its demands, as the US and NATO pushed for more negotiations to avert a possible Russian invasion of its pro-Western neighbor.
With tens of thousands of Russian troops massing on Ukraine's borders, efforts have intensified to prevent a conflict and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was preparing to fly to Kyiv for talks on Wednesday.
Blinken's trip, which will also take him to Berlin for meetings Thursday with European allies, is the latest in a flurry of diplomacy to prevent the tensions over Ukraine from escalating into a new war in Europe.
Talks in Geneva, Brussels and Vienna last week failed to ease fears, with Russia insisting its demands for sweeping security guarantees -- including a permanent ban on Ukraine joining NATO -- be taken seriously.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday that there would be no further negotiations until the West gives it proper answers.
"We are now awaiting responses to these proposals -- as we were promised -- in order to continue negotiations," he said at a joint press conference with visiting German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.
"Let's hope these talks will continue," Lavrov said.
Washington has outright rejected the demands, which also include limits on allied deployments in former Warsaw Pact allies like Poland and the ex-Soviet Baltic states that joined NATO after the Cold War.
In a call with Lavrov ahead of his trip, Blinken "stressed the importance of continuing a diplomatic path to de-escalate tensions," State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also left the door open to more talks, saying he had invited Russia and NATO allies to a series of discussions in the NATO-Russia Council "in the near future".
They aim to "address our concerns but also listen to Russia's concerns, and to try to find a way forward to prevent any military attack against Ukraine," Stoltenberg told a news conference in Berlin.
The State Department said Blinken would fly to Ukraine and meet Wednesday with President Volodymyr Zelensky, to "reinforce the United States' commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity".
Belarus military drills
Blinken will head Thursday to Berlin for four-way talks with Britain, France and Germany on the Ukraine crisis.
The four countries will discuss "joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine, including allies' and partners' readiness to impose massive consequences and severe economic costs on Russia," Price said in a statement.
Ukraine, the United States and European countries have all raised deep concerns over the Russian troop build-up, despite repeated denials from Moscow that an invasion is planned.
Kyiv has been at war with pro-Moscow separatists in the east of the country since 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine after demonstrations ousted a Kremlin-aligned leader.
Adding to the tensions, Russia and Ukraine's neighbor Belarus on Tuesday launched snap military exercises.
The Belarusian defense ministry said it was hosting the combat readiness drills because of the continuing "aggravation" of military tensions "including at the western and southern borders of the Republic of Belarus."
Ukraine borders Belarus to the south and NATO member Poland to the west.
Neither Moscow nor Minsk has disclosed the number of troops involved, but a video published by the Belarusian defense ministry showed columns of military vehicles including tanks being unloaded from trains blanketed in snow.
Warning from Turkey
NATO member Turkey also warned Moscow against invading Ukraine on Tuesday, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying he intended to discuss rising tensions with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"I don't see Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a realistic option because it is not an ordinary country. Ukraine is a powerful country," Erdogan told reporters in Albania.
Turkey has supplied combat drones to Ukrainian forces, drawing fierce criticism from Moscow.
Russian negotiators met separately this month with delegations from the United States, NATO and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), in meetings that failed to produce any concrete results.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced in parliament on Monday that Britain is sending weapons to Ukraine as part of a package that would help Kyiv secure its borders.
The types of equipment being sent "are not strategic weapons and pose no threat to Russia," he said, describing them as "light, anti-armour, defensive weapon systems".
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday described the announcement of the shipments as "extremely dangerous" and "not conducive to reducing tensions".
© 2022 AFP
'Are you Republican or are you conservative?' West Coast 'refugees' plunging Idaho’s GOP into 'civil war'
Out-of-state transplants are helping to drive Idaho's economic growth, but also are helping to plunge the Republican Party into turmoil.
The state GOP is consumed with infighting among the traditional conservatives who've long controlled the party, increasingly vocal anti-government militants and highly motivated "political refugees" from the West Coast, and those newcomers are pushing the party further to the right, reported Politico.
“They want to make sure people here know how evil liberals are,” said Alicia Abbott, a political independent from Sandpoint.
Idaho has become one of the fastest-growing states in the country, but they're helping to tear the GOP into three or four parties, according to Democratic Party chair Fred Cornforth, who recently resigned due to a cancer diagnosis.
“There’s a civil war in the Idaho Republican Party,” Cornforth said. “There are the populists — the ones making the most noise — and libertarians, moderates who’ve shifted right of center, meaning they aren’t really moderates any more, and Republicans who don’t recognize their party anymore and will drift over to voting Dem.”
The intraparty divisions have been fueled by Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who banned vaccine mandates while Gov. Brad Little briefly left the state, and state Rep. Priscilla Giddings, her likely running mate in a gubernatorial race that includes anti-government provocateur Ammon Bundy.
"I’m not the Republican they are, that is for danged sure,” Bundy said. “I never will be. I’m going to give the people of Idaho a decision … are you Republican or are you conservative? ’Cause they’re not the same thing, especially in Idaho right now.”
Bundy took part in the Malheur Wildlife Refuge occupation and an armed standoff against federal agents, while McGeachin has ties to the right-wing Three Percenters and the John Birch Society, which was formally endorsed by the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee -- much to the alarm of Kootenai County commissioner Bill Brooks, who quit the party in protest.“We came here 20 years ago because it was the closest thing we could find to Norman Rockwell,” Brooks said. “Now people come looking for George Lincoln Rockwell,” the founder of the American Nazi Party.
WATCH: Republican Dan Crenshaw booed by audience after he snaps at young woman for questioning his faith
A young woman attended the Montgomery County Tea Party meeting Monday evening where people could ask questions of Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX). It didn't go well for the congressman.
The woman noted that the GOP congressman had suggested that Jesus was not a real person and accused him of lying about being a Christian. She quoted an excerpt from Crenshaw's book Fortitude that involved role models and listed off everyone from Jesus to Rosa Parks and even Superman.
When promoting the book, Crenshaw appeared on the Jocko Podcast where the book was heavily quoted and Crenshaw was asked to expand on those excerpts.
Dan Crenshaw bullied a young girl last night for quoting him directly.\n\nSad!pic.twitter.com/6XXak3d5e6— Alex Bruesewitz (@Alex Bruesewitz) 1642510256
"The important thing is that we societal hero archetypes that we look up to. Jesus is a hero archetype, Superman is a hero archetype. Real characters too, you know, I put, I could name a thousand,” Crenshaw said on the podcast. “You know, know Rosa Parks, Ronald Reagan, all of these people embody certain attributes that the American people think ‘This is good.'"
"I can't wrap my head around this," the woman said at the event after quoting him.
Crenshaw snapped at her and said that she could just put a period after Jesus in terms of admired people.
"Don't question my faith," he shot back. The audience booed. "You guys can ask questions about all of these things and I'll answer that but don't question my faith."
Many evangelicals view Jesus as incomparable, even when speaking about those who embody "Jesus-like" behavior or those inspired by the teachings of Christ as inspiration for encouraging the common good.
One of the videos was posted by Scott T. Parkinson, the VP of government affairs at the Club for Growth, who noted it wasn't likely to raise much money for Crenshaw.
The GOP congressman is being primaried from the right with many claiming he's nothing more than a RINO (Republican In Name Only).
See the videos below:
Dan Crenshaw snaps at 10-year-old questioning his Christian values www.youtube.com
Dan Crenshaw gets upset at a 10 year old girl at an event and gets heckled by the crowd. \u201cDon\u2019t question my faith.\u201dpic.twitter.com/EYEXYpXKIB— Ron Filipkowski (@Ron Filipkowski) 1642510316