Putin: we don't want conflict over Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin.
President Vladimir Putin says Russia wants to avoid conflict with Ukraine and the West. -EPA

Russia wants to avoid conflict with Ukraine and the West, President Vladimir Putin says, demanding an "immediate" response from the United States and its allies to Moscow's demand for security guarantees.

"This is not our (preferred) choice, we do not want this," Putin said at his annual news conference on Thursday when asked about the possibility of conflict with Ukraine.

He said Russia had received a generally positive initial response to security proposals it handed to the United States this month and that negotiations would start early next year in Geneva.

"I hope the development of the situation will proceed along that path," he said.

In a separate answer, Putin grew more heated when recalling how NATO had "cheated" Russia with successive waves of expansion since the Cold War, and said Moscow needed an answer urgently.

"You must give us guarantees, and immediately - now."

Russia rejects Ukrainian and US accusations that it may be preparing an invasion of Ukraine as early as next month by tens of thousands of Russian troops poised within reach of the border.

It says it needs pledges from the West - including a promise not to conduct NATO military activity in Eastern Europe - because its security is threatened by Ukraine's growing ties with the Western alliance as well as the possibility of NATO missiles being deployed against it on Ukrainian territory.

"We just directly posed the question that there should be no further NATO movement to the east. The ball is in their court, they should answer us with something," Putin said.