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russia: Russia says it won’t start a war but will defend its interests…

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Russia’s top diplomat said Friday that Moscow will not start a war but warned that it wouldn’t allow the West to trample on its security interests amid fears it is planning to invade Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden warned Ukraine’s president a day earlier that there is a “distinct possibility” that Russia could take military action against its neighbour in February.

“There won’t be a war as far as it depends on the Russian Federation, we don’t want a war,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a live interview with Russian radio stations. “But we won’t let our interests be rudely trampled on and ignored.”

Tensions have soared in recent weeks, and the United States and its NATO allies worry that the concentration of about 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine heralds Moscow’s intention to attack the ex-Soviet state. Russia has repeatedly denied having any such plans, but has demanded that NATO promise Ukraine will never be allowed to join and that the alliance roll back deployments of troops and military equipment in Eastern Europe.

The US and NATO formally rejected those demands this week, though Washington outlined areas where discussions are possible, perhaps offering a path to de-escalation.

Russia’s official response to those proposals – and the ultimate decision over whether to invade – rests with President Vladimir Putin, but the Kremlin has sounded a grim note thus far, saying there is “little ground for optimism”. AP

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