The United States delivered written replies on Wednesday to sweeping Russian security demands, a key step in a fragile diplomatic process as Russia staged new military drills on land and sea near Ukraine.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the U.S. response was delivered in person by U.S. ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan.
Washington has made clear that Russian demands for NATO to pull back troops and weapons from eastern Europe and bar Ukraine from ever joining are non-starters. It says it is ready to discuss other topics such as arms control and confidence-building measures.
Whether Russia is prepared to accept that limited agenda will determine the next phase of the crisis, which has seen Moscow mass around 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine while denying it plans to invade.
In Paris, four-nation talks dragged on longer than expected on ending a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine, part of a wider crisis between Moscow and Kyiv that has raised the risk of a full-scale war.
Moscow warned earlier on Wednesday that imposing sanctions on President Vladimir Putin personally would not hurt him but would be “politically destructive,” after U.S. President Joe Biden said he would consider such a move if Russia invaded Ukraine.
Biden said on Tuesday that personal sanctions on Putin, though a rare step, could be considered as part of a concerted drive by Washington and its allies to convince Moscow that any new aggression against Ukraine would bring swift and massive costs.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said U.S. lawmakers discussing personal sanctions against Russia’s top leaders were ignorant of the fact they were legally barred from holding assets, property and bank accounts abroad.
Individual sanctions against Putin would be “not painful (but) politically destructive,” said Peskov, who has previously said they would amount to a severing of diplomatic relations.