Russia’s deputy foreign minister says ‘small steps’ needed to reconcile with US

Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said that “small steps” would be needed for Moscow and the United States to come closer to an agreement on bilateral issues, the RIA news agency reported on Monday.

“We hope that the tactics of small steps will allow us to come to mutually acceptable solutions on the most important issues of the bilateral agenda,” Ryabkov told the RIA Novosti news agency in an interview.

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Ryabkov added that Russia and the United States will continue talks on prisoner exchange but said that it is unlikely they will end with an all-for-all swap, the news agency cited Ryabkov as saying.

Last month, Moscow freed US basketball star Brittney Griner — arrested for bringing cannabis oil into the country — in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

As for the New START nuclear arms control treaty with the United States and which expires in February 2026, the deputy foreign minister that it was “quite possible” that the nuclear arms control treaty would end after 2026.

US-Russia talks on resuming inspections under the New START treaty were called off at the last minute in November 2022. Neither side has agreed on a time frame for new talks.

Ukraine situation

Ryabkov hit at the Western support that Ukraine is receiving, saying that with the United States having decided to supply tanks to Ukraine, it makes no sense for Russia to talk to Kyiv or its Western “puppet masters” Ryabkov.

He said no one in the West has come up with any serious initiatives on resolving the Ukrainian crisis which will mark its first year in February.

Ryabkov also touched on the situation of Ukraine’s Russia-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant saying that negotiations on creating a safety zone around Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant are tough, and Kyiv appears to be just stalling for time.

“While consultations with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] are ongoing, it would not be right to make public information about the possible parameters of the ZNPP protection zone. The negotiation process is not progressing easily,” Ryabkov said in the interview.

“We handed over our proposals to Rafael Grossi, the agency’s director general. As far as we know, Kyiv has not yet given a clear answer to the initiative of the IAEA head. Apparently, it’s just stalling.