The Ukrainian president warned Thursday against the risk of Russian “provocations” in the separatist east of the country, Moscow telling Kiev and the West not to “worry” about the movements of its troops on the Ukrainian border.
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“The show of force in the form of military exercises and possible provocations along the border is the traditional occupation of Russia,” President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced in a statement.
By placing troops on the Ukrainian border, Moscow “tries to create a threatening atmosphere and to put pressure” on Ukraine, he continued while calling for negotiating a new truce in this area.
“Russia moves its armed forces on its territory as it sees fit,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov had earlier noted, adding that “this does not represent a threat to anyone and should not worry anyone”.
After a long truce during the second half of 2020, the conflict in eastern Ukraine has seen an increase in clashes since January, resulting in the deaths of 19 Ukrainian soldiers. Both sides blame each other for the escalation.
Ukrainians and Americans have also reported recent movements of Russian troops in Crimea, a peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014, and on the Russian-Ukrainian border near territories controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
Ukrainian military intelligence thus accused Moscow on Thursday of preparing “the entry” of its “regular armed forces” into the separatist territories “on the grounds of protecting” the inhabitants, to whom Russia has distributed hundreds of thousands of its passports. .
Russian troops could “try to penetrate further into Ukrainian territory,” the intelligence service added in a statement.
USA-Russia phone call
An official of the Ukrainian presidency, Roman Machovets, suggested during a meeting with the NATO representative in Ukraine to organize military maneuvers and joint air patrols to “stabilize the situation in the region”.
Witnessing the growing concern of the United States, the Chief of Staff of the United States Armed Forces, General Mark Milley, spoke on Wednesday with the Russian Chief of Staff Valeri Guerassimov, and with the Commander-in-Chief of the United States. Ukrainian armed forces Ruslan Khomchak.
The latter had earlier denounced “a threat to Ukrainian military security”, asserting that the separatists numbered 28,000 Russian fighters and “more than 2,000 instructors and military advisers”.
Moscow has always denied having had men or weapons on the ground. Mr. Peskov reaffirmed Thursday that “the Russian military” had “never taken part” in this war.
The Pentagon meanwhile said this week that US forces in Europe had been placed in a phase of enhanced surveillance against a “potential imminent crisis” and that the United States had raised the tensions in Ukraine with its NATO partners.
Moscow blames the outbreak of violence in eastern Ukraine on the Kiev authorities, accusing them of frustrating peace efforts by refusing dialogue with the separatists.
The war in Ukraine, which claimed more than 13,000 lives, began in 2014 after the annexation of Crimea, in the wake of a pro-Western movement in Kiev that Moscow wanted to avoid at all costs.