Russia wants to avoid conflict with Ukraine and the West but needs an “immediate” response from the United States and its allies to its demands for security guarantees. President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday

Putin was plied with questions about the risk of conflict with Ukraine during his marathon annual news conference, which lasted over four hours.

“This is not our (preferred) choice, we do not want this,” he told reporters.

Tensions over Ukraine have pushed Moscow’s relations with the West to their lowest point since the collapse of the Soviet Union some 30 years ago.

Russia rejects Ukrainian and U.S. accusations that it may be preparing an invasion of Ukraine as early as next month by tens of thousands of Russian troops deployed within reach of the border of the country which like Russia is a former Soviet republic.