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Putin Says ‘Of Course’ Russia Doesn’t Want War, Ukraine Officials Say ‘Believe What You See’ On Withdrawal

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that “of course” Russia does not want war in Europe. However, he did repeat that the West should take his supposed security concerns seriously, and that they must be addressed.

Putin was speaking in Moscow after meeting with Germany’s Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, regarding ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

“Do we want this or not? Of course, not. That is exactly why we put forward proposals for a process of negotiations,” Putin said on the subject of the potential for conflict.

Putin and Scholz also clashed over whether there was a precedent for war in Europe. Putin claimed that the 1990s conflict in the former Yugoslavia was carried out by NATO without the approval of the United Nations Security Council. However, Scholz said that this was not a relevant comparison, as there was a real concern that genocide could occur. Putin then argued that this was occurring in Ukraine’s Donbas region, with the Russian president claiming that a genocide is being carried out against ethnic Russians.

Later, Scholz told journalists that Putin was wrong to use the word “genocide” in this case.

This meeting is the latest in a series of discussions between Putin and Western leaders, and comes as the Russian military has claimed that some troops have been withdrawn from the border with Ukraine. 

“There is nothing to comment on here. A decision was made to partially withdraw troops,” Putin said following the meeting with Scholz.

This potential partial withdrawal has resulted in “cautious optimism” by NATO and Ukrainian officials.

“There are signs from Moscow that diplomacy should continue. This gives grounds for cautious optimism. But so far we have not seen any sign of de-escalation on the ground from the Russian side,” NATO chief executive Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s defense minister, said, “We have a rule: don’t believe what you hear, believe what you see. When we see a withdrawal, we will believe in a de-escalation.”

Even if this pullback does occur, the total Russian force is still estimated to be more than 120,000 troops, according to The Wall Street Journal.

On Tuesday morning, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that there were “mixed signals” coming from Russia, with British intelligence indicating that Russian field hospitals were being built along the Ukrainian border.

“There are signs of a diplomatic opening with Russia, but the intelligence we are seeing today is not encouraging,” Johnson tweeted. “We have a tough package of sanctions ready if Russia chooses war.”

“We maintain that diplomacy and de-escalation is the only way forward,” Johnson added.

Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.

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