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Putin says military drills 'purely defensive' and 'not a threat' as West warns Ukraine invasion imminent

Russian military drills are “purely defensive” and “not a threat to any other country”, Vladimir Putin has said.

The Russian president denied he was going to invade Ukraine following Western leaders warning an incursion is imminent as Moscow amasses more than 150,000 troops at the border.

Talking at a news conference with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko following talks between the two, Mr Putin said: “These military exercises, drills are purely defensive and are not a threat to any other country.

“They were planned and all the objectives of these drills have been achieved.”

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Earlier on Friday, Russia announced it was going to be holding nuclear drills on Saturday and Mr Putin would personally be overseeing the exercise, along with Mr Lukashenko.

Mr Putin added that Russia is open to discussions with the US and other Western allies but said he is “demanding” a return to the NATO agreement signed in 1997 with Russia following the Cold War.

“The US and other partners are not accepting these demands or initiatives at the moment,” he said.

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“We’ve also talked about certain ideas that were put forward, ideas of transparency and limiting certain types of weapons.

“Russia is open to these discussions.”

Mr Lukashenko was more effusive in his criticism of Western countries, saying there had been an “irresponsibility” by a number of Western leaders that had led to the situation over Ukraine.

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