US-Russia talks over Ukraine useful but no progress made. US and Russian diplomats have emerged from a day of negotiations in Geneva over the fate of Ukraine, describing the talks as “useful” and “very professional” – but also stressing they had not made progress towards resolving fundamental disagreements.–180293365/–180293365/–180293365/–180293365/–180293365/–180293365/–180293365/–180293365/–180293365/

The two sides largely spent the eight hours of talks presenting their points of view on the situation in Ukraine, currently hemmed in by some 100,000 Russian troops, and on European security in general, and deferred further debate on them to a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday between Russia and all Nato members.

“We had useful discussions and exchanges today that will help inform our way forward,” Wendy Sherman, the deputy US secretary of state and leader of the delegation in Geneva, told reporters after the day of talks.

Her Russian counterpart, Sergei Ryabkov, said: “The conversation was difficult, long, very professional, deep, concrete, without attempts to embellish or smooth over sharp corners.

“We have been left with the impression that the American side approached the Russian proposals very seriously, studied them in depth,” Ryabkov said.

Sherman also remarked on the Russians’ readiness to negotiate, saying they discussed “things that are not Russian priorities”.

She said that the issues of reciprocal limits on military exercises and missile deployments were discussed, but the US ruled out as a matter of principle, the idea of a guarantee that Ukraine would never join Nato, restating that it was the country’s sovereign right to decide.

“We were firm in pushing back on security proposals that are simply non-starters for the United States,” Sherman said. “We will not allow anyone to slam close Nato’s open door policy.”

While conceding that the talks were “not hopeless” Ryabkov confirmed Russia had made no progress in achieving its key goals, which the Kremlin laid out in December in two proposed treaties with the US and Nato, which included a pledge by the US that Nato would no longer accept new members such as Ukraine or Georgia.

In his remarks on Monday, Ryabkov said that a pledge from Nato not to expand further, to limit the deployment of weapons in countries bordering Russia, and to roll back military activity in new Nato countries were “requirements we cannot step back from”.

Ryabkov said the two sides had continued to clash over what the agenda of future talks should be. While the US has sought to focus on technical arms control issues, Ryabkov described those as a secondary concern compared with the far thornier demand to limit Nato’s presence in central and eastern Europe.

He also noted that elements of Russia’s demands, such as an effective veto on future Nato enlargement, appear to be non-starters for the US and its allies. Analysts have said that the aggressive demands made by Russia mean that the negotiations are headed for a dead-end.

“Regrettably, there are also other aspects of the same sort where we disagree: something that is absolutely necessary to us is categorically unacceptable to the Americans,” Ryabkov told the press.

He warned that Russia did not want negotiations to take months or years and insisted that Moscow would also stick to its demands for Nato to roll back its troops and infrastructure in eastern Europe to pre-1997 levels. The US presence on the alliance’s eastern flank was significantly reinforced after the Russian annexation of Crimea and covert military intervention in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

“There needs to be a breakthrough, there needs to be a real step toward Russia – a step made by Nato,” Ryabkov said. “If this doesn’t happen … we very much don’t want to have a situation where Nato countries led by the US make that kind of mistake and once again act to undermine their own security and the security of the whole European continent.”

He said both sides were looking to the upcoming Nato-Russia Council on Wednesday as a testing ground for whether Russia can come to a new arrangement with the security alliance.

Ryabkov repeated Russian assurances that Moscow was not planning to attack Ukraine. All Russian troop movements were taking place inside the country’s borders, he said, and “there is no basis to worry about an escalation in connection to this”.

On being informed of his remarks, Sherman responded: “They can prove that, in fact, they have no intention [to invade] by de-escalating and returning troops to barracks.”

Over the weekend, open source investigators had identified new signs that Russia’s military buildup on the border with Ukraine was probably continuing.

Videos posted on social networks such as TikTok showed Russian armor and artillery being transported by rail through cities along the Trans-Siberian Railway, suggesting that reinforcements may be traveling toward Russia’s border with Ukraine from nearly 4,000 miles away.

Boris Johnson was accused on Monday night of an “utterly outrageous” breach of lockdown rules as a leaked email showed one of his top officials invited more than 100 Downing Street staff to a “bring your own booze” party during the first lockdown. The police are now investigating.

The prime minister is believed to have attended the No 10 garden party on 20 May 2020 along with Carrie Johnson, then his fiancee, after it was advertised by his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds.

“Hi all, after what has been an incredibly busy period we thought it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden this evening. Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!” the email seen by ITV News said.

It invited just over 100 employees to the gathering at a time when social mixing was banned except with one other person from another household outdoors in a public place.

Supporters of a prominent university professor, and one of Afghanistan’s most vocal critics of the Taliban, are calling for his release after he was arrested on Saturday.

Faizullah Jalal, a professor at Kabul University, was detained by the Taliban after the group claimed he was responsible for a series of messages on social media attacking them.

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