By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Moscow would seek Western guarantees that would preclude any further NATO expansion and the deployment of its weapons near Russia’s borders. Putin’s statement Wednesday came amid Ukrainian and Western worries about a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russian diplomats have countered by expressing concern about Ukraine’s military buildup near the area of the separatist conflict in the eastern part of the country. Putin emphasized Russia will seek “strong, reliable and long-term guarantees of its security.” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, noting that Putin could quickly order an invasion of Ukraine, warned that Washington stands ready to inflict heavy sanctions on Russia if he does.