Poland's foreign minister said on Thursday that Europe was closer to war than any time in the last 30 years as Russia gave a bleak assessment of diplomatic efforts this week to defuse tensions over Ukraine.
Russia said it was hitting a dead end as it tried to persuade the West to bar Ukraine from joining NATO and roll back decades of alliance expansion in Europe.Follow @Graphicgh
It offered a stark view before the week's security meetings have even finished, with talks under way in Vienna on Thursday at the 57-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Without naming Russia in his address to envoys from the 57 OSCE members, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau mentioned tensions in Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Moldova, all countries with active or frozen conflicts in which Russia has been alleged to be a party.
"It seems that the risk of war in the OSCE area is now greater than ever before in the last 30 years," he said.
"For several weeks we have been faced with the prospect of a major military escalation in Eastern Europe," he said, launching his country's year-long chairmanship of the region's largest security organisation.
He reported no breakthrough at the meeting.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told RTVI television in an interview that Russian military specialists were providing options to President Vladimir Putin in case the situation around Ukraine worsened, but diplomacy must be given a chance.
However, he said talks with the United States in Geneva on Monday and with NATO in Brussels on Wednesday had shown there was a "dead end or difference of approaches", and he saw no reason to sit down again in the coming days to re-start the same discussions.
The U.S. envoy to the OSCE talks said the West should not give in to blackmail. read more
Russia has forced the United States and its allies to the negotiating table by assembling around 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine, while denying it plans to invade. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said U.S. demands for them to pull back were unacceptable.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said: "Despite the unsatisfactory week of great diplomacy for Russia, I believe that the only way for the Russians to confirm their lack of intention to solve problems by force is to continue the discussion in the established formats, in particular in the OSCE."