Russia's top diplomat has advised President Vladimir Putin to keep talking with the West on Moscow's security demands, a signal from the Kremlin that it intends to continue diplomatic efforts amid US warnings of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine. Moscow wanted guarantees from the West that NATO won't allow Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to join as members, and that the alliance will halt weapons deployments to Ukraine and roll back its forces from Eastern Europe, the demands flatly rejected by the West. The US and its NATO allies have repeatedly warned that Russia will pay a high price for any invasion—but they have sometimes struggled to present a united front.
Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a bitter conflict since 2014, when Ukraine's Kremlin-friendly leader was driven from office by a popular uprising. Moscow responded by annexing the Crimean Peninsula and then backing a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine, where fighting has killed over 14,000 people.
A 2015 peace deal brokered by France and Germany helped halt large-scale battles, but regular skirmishes have continued, and efforts to reach a political settlement have stalled.