Putin reinforces Ukraine’s grievances during TV show with top security officials

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Putin also accused the West of threats and blackmail during the previously unscheduled Russian Security Council convening which, in an unusually theatrical setting, was televised.

The show aired just hours after the White House announced that US President Joe Biden agreed “in principle” with Putin to French-brokered talks as long as Russia does not invade Ukraine further. The Kremlin said earlier Monday that there were “no concrete plans” for a meeting.

Speaking about the possibility of talks with Biden, Putin – who had two lengthy phone calls with French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday – hinted he was skeptical.

“Yesterday we spoke with the French President twice, the second call lasting until about 2 a.m. He assured us that the American position had changed somewhat. But when asked what were these changes, he unfortunately could not say,” Putin said.

Then he refers to comments made on Sunday by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who once again stressed that the issue of Ukraine’s NATO membership is “a matter for Ukraine and for NATO”.

The assurance that Ukraine would not be admitted to NATO in the future is one of the central demands of the Kremlin.

With his senior officials gathered before him at the extraordinary meeting of the Security Council, Putin appeared following claims made by the Russian military earlier on Monday that troops and border guards engaged in a clash with a “group of sabotage and reconnaissance of the territory of Ukraine” inside Russian territory.

“Russia has always tried to resolve all conflicts by peaceful means. Nevertheless, the authorities in Kiev carried out two punitive operations in these territories [Donetsk and Luhansk]and it looks like we are now seeing an escalation for the third time,” Putin said, without giving further details or details.

CNN has not independently verified reports of a clash on Russian territory. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba denied that a clash had occurred, saying on Twitter: “I categorically refute the misinformation from the Russian Federation.”

Kuleba said that Ukraine “did not attack Donetsk, Luhansk, did not send saboteurs or armored personnel carriers across the border, did not fire into the territory of the Russian Federation or the border checkpoint, did not commit sabotage, does not plan such actions.”

Russia overtakes another exit ramp in Ukraine crisis

The increase in Putin’s combative language came as tensions rose again in eastern Ukraine.

The joint Ukrainian forces operation said it had recorded 32 ceasefire violations as of 4 p.m. local time, a number roughly in line with those at the weekend.

New satellite images showed increased activity among Russian units near Ukraine’s northeastern border and Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said it recorded dozens of ceasefire violations on Sunday.

Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Monday that Ukraine saw no withdrawal of Russian forces from positions near the border.

And in a further escalation, Belarusian officials announced on Sunday that joint Russian military exercises in Belarus that were due to end this weekend would continue, implying that Russian forces could extend their stay.

CNN’s Nathan Hodge, Anna Chernova, Josh Pennington, Sarah Dean and Amy Cassidy contributed to this report.

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