Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has described Sunday’s preliminary talks with Washington on security guarantees as “stunning” but also noted that the “conversation was difficult.”

Ryabkov has held a two-hour meeting with his American counterpart, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, in Geneva, ahead of Monday’s larger US-Russia engagement. The talks come amid heightened tensions between Moscow and the West over the situation in Ukraine.

Answering questions from the media on his assessment of the preliminary consultations, Ryabkov said that they were “stunning” and that the “conversation was difficult but business-like” with the participants having “dived into the matter of upcoming affairs.”

I think we are not going to waste time tomorrow,” he noted, adding that he never loses optimism.

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The talks were prompted by escalating tensions between Russia and the West in recent months. Western nations are concerned about Moscow’s alleged plans to invade Ukraine – something the Kremlin has repeatedly denied and blamed on anti-Russian “hysteria.”

The situation prompted Moscow to table a set of security proposals, which included curbs on NATO expansion and security guarantees for Russia. Some of these demands have already been rejected by the US and its allies, as both NATO and Washington have said that the alliance would never promise not to expand.

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