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Ukraine crisis: Russia says diplomatic solution still possible





Russia has said that a diplomatic solution to its escalating standoff with the West is still possible.


In a televised meeting, President Vladimir Putin was told that diplomatic talks had not yet been been exhausted.


The comments come after more than a dozen nations urged their citizens to leave Ukraine, and the US said aerial bombardments could begin "at any time".


Russia has always denied plans to invade Ukraine, despite massing more than 100,000 troops on the border.


Separately, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was still time for Russia to "step back" from the situation with Ukraine, urging all sides to carry on talking.


A statement said Mr Johnson would hold a Cobra meeting on Tuesday to discuss the UK's response to the pressures.


During another socially-distanced TV appearance on Monday, Mr Putin asked his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov if there was a chance to reach an agreement with the West, or whether the diplomacy was "an attempt to drag us into an endless negotiation process?"


Mr Lavrov replied that the "possibilities are far from being exhausted, they certainly should not continue indefinitely, but I would suggest continuing and ramping them up".


The comments are being seen as a clear concession that talks could ease the tensions. But analysts say that without either side moving over the thorny issue of Ukraine potentially joining Nato, there is still deadlock.


The Kremlin says it cannot accept that Ukraine - a former Soviet republic with deep social and cultural ties with Russia - could one day join Nato, and has demanded that this be ruled out. Nato's members have rejected this request.


Also at the Kremlin meeting - in what some observers see as another possible route to easing tensions - Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Mr Putin that some of the country's military drills near Ukraine's border had already ended and others were coming to a close.


Russia is holding massive joint exercises with Belarus, Ukraine's northern neighbour. Moscow is also staging Navy shooting drills in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov - to the south of Ukraine.

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