U.S. and Russia still far apart on Ukraine

Russia and the United States gave no sign that they had narrowed their differences on Ukraine and wider European security in talks in Geneva on Monday, as Moscow repeated demands that Washington says it cannot accept.

Russia has gathered troops near Ukraine's border while demanding that the U.S.-led NATO alliance promise not to admit Ukraine, or expand further into what Moscow sees as its back yard.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said there was a great disparity; at the talks between the U.S. and Russia, and that the two sides have almost opposite views on what needs to be done.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. was firm in pushing back security proposals that are non-starters for the United States.

"We will not, for example, allow anyone to slam closed NATO's open-door policy, which has always been central to the NATO alliance. We also will not forego bilateral cooperation with sovereign states that wish to work with the United States."

Eight years after Russia seized the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, Washington and Kyiv say the 100,000 troops now near Ukraine's border could be preparing another invasion.

Russia on Monday denied any such plans.

Sergei Ryabkov: "All the actions on the combat training activities for troops are held on our territory. There are no reasons to fear some sort of escalation scenario in this regard."

The build-up of troops near Ukraine has raised U.S.-Russia tensions to their highest levels since the end of the Cold War.

Despite the lack of obvious progress in Monday's talks, the atmosphere between the two sides appeared cordial.

Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Wendy Sherman called it a frank and forthright discussion, while her Russian counterpart said it was difficult but professional.

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