RUSSIA will do everything possible to guarantee its security and the safety of its citizens, should the crisis in Ukraine drastically deteriorate.
However, Kiev and its Western patrons will bear full responsibility for any escalation, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters on Tuesday.
‘They continue to provide supplies, increasing the amount of assistance. The United States and other NATO countries are deliberately turning Ukraine into a powder keg.
‘Trainings have been going on for many years in Ukraine with the participation of advisors, instructors who work at various testing ranges in dozens and hundreds, while facilities are being created that have direct negative impact on our security, education and training activities are ramped up, a network of biolaboratories was established and operations there are concerning for us to say the least,’ he underlined.
According to the senior diplomat, the combination of these factors poses a serious challenge to security of Russia.
‘We would like to reiterate that NATO countries, who use demagogic rhetoric to speculate about protecting Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, should think about containing the warmongering spirit of their clients in Kiev and ensuring the implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures that our Kiev neighbours are blatantly ignoring,’ Ryabkov added.
However, he pointed out, the US continues to fan militarist sentiments in Kiev and engage in provocations in direct proximity to Russian borders instead.
Western countries have lately been repeatedly voicing concerns over remarks made by top Ukrainian military brass regarding Russia’s building up its forces along the border with Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted earlier that movement of Russian troops inside their own country should not raise concerns in other states.
Peskov underlined that these movements do not threaten any states in any way.
He also said that the Donbass conflict is exclusively a domestic Ukrainian affair, adding that Russian troops never took part in it.
The Donbass situation was exacerbated in late February, with exchanges of fire registered almost daily particularly with the use of mortars and grenade launchers.
The parties to the conflict accuse each other of aggravating the situation.
Also on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova castigated CNN’s ploy to spread disinformation about Russia’s alleged preparations for war with Ukraine by pointing to the footage featuring Ukrainian tanks in the TV channel’s report which was purported to be ‘Russian’.
‘Dear CNN TV channel and its friendly staff, we understand that you have no time for fact-checking.
‘You are so deeply absorbed in the ideological struggle in the name of the triumph of liberalism, but not to the same extent when you palm off Ukrainian tanks at a Ukrainian railway station against the background of Ukrainian rail cars as Russia’s preparations for war,’ she wrote on her Facebook page.
In her post, the diplomat provided a snippet from CNN’s video footage of allegedly Russian armoured vehicles being pulled up to the Ukrainian border.
Given this, Zakharova recommended that CNN correspondents in Moscow ‘take their minds off participating in Russia’s public life and devote a little more time to their profession.
‘Because this is just inappropriate,’ she insisted.
Meanwhile during a press conference in Cairo on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned Turkey against encouraging Kiev’s ‘militaristic aspirations.’
This statement came in response to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s trip to Istanbul, Kommersant reported.
Meanwhile, Russia and Egypt are on the same page when it comes to the international agenda, as proven by Lavrov’s working visit to the country.
‘I will tell you straight away that we urge all responsible countries that we communicate with – and Turkey is one of them – that we strongly recommend they analyse the situation and the Kiev regime’s relentless belligerent statements, and we also warn them against encouraging these militaristic aspirations,’ Lavrov said during a joint press conference with his Egyptian colleague Sameh Shoukry in Cairo.
This was when asked whether Russia is concerned over the military-technical cooperation between Turkey and Ukraine.
This matter arose after Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s visit to Istanbul on Saturday, and the reports of the first launch of Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 drone in Donbass.
Lavrov’s statement on Turkey was made only a few hours before the Russian government’s decision to restrict air service with Turkey due to the Covid-19 situation there.
The tone of the statement clearly contrasted with the atmosphere of mutual understanding between Moscow and Cairo on foreign policy issues.
It should be noted that the minister chose to criticise Turkey in Egypt, which is considered Ankara’s rival in the region, as Cairo has a negative view of Turkish ambitions in Africa and Arab states, the newspaper noted.
Their rivalry was highlighted in Libya, where Egypt supported the Libyan National Army led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and the government in eastern Libya, while Turkey aided the Government of National Accord in Tripoli.
Separately, the leader of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament Manfred Weber has been pushing for tougher sanctions against Russia if tensions in Donbass heighten.
Moscow is ‘playing with fire’ with its military buildup near the Ukrainian border, testing the West’s patience, he stated on Monday.
According to the politician, the EU may exclude Russia from the SWIFT system or freeze the accounts of Russian oligarchs.
Earlier, a number of European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, expressed concern over the deployment of Russian troops near the border with Ukraine.
The Kremlin pointed out in response that the troops are moving on Russian soil and have the full right to do so.
- Foreign ministers of the G7 countries have issued a joint statement calling the movement of Russian troops near the border with Ukraine ‘threatening and destabilising,’ and asking Moscow to be transparent with military movements.
Published late on Monday evening, the text expresses concern about the increased presence of Russian soldiers on the western border, demanding that the Kremlin ‘cease its provocations’ and ‘immediately de-escalate tensions.’
The statement, however, makes no mention of Ukraine’s own military build-up, which began first.
In the past fortnight, the Western media has reported a build-up of both manpower and equipment, particularly on the Crimean Peninsula and by the eastern Ukrainian border.
While some have suggested that Moscow is preparing for war, and others have dubbed it ‘saber-rattling’, the Kremlin itself has called the movement of Russian troops across its own territory an internal matter.
The reports of increased manpower in the region come following increased tensions in Donbass, an area of Ukraine still engaged in a civil war between Kiev and pro-Moscow breakaway republics. The conflict began in April 2014.
According to G7 foreign ministers, an intergovernmental organisation consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US, the growing number of soldiers threatens to turn into something more serious.
Russia itself was a member of what was known as the G8 until 2014.
‘These large-scale troop movements, without prior notification, represent threatening and destabilising activities,’ the statement said.
‘We call on Russia to uphold the OSCE principles and commitments that it has signed up to on transparency of military movements.’
The text also reaffirms the organisation’s support ‘for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.’
The exact extent of Russian military build-up is not entirely known, with wildly varying figures being released by different outlets and politicians.
According to the New York Times, the number is around 4,000 troops.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office gave a much higher estimate, at 80,000.
Last week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov revealed that Moscow had held high-level talks with Washington in an effort to address the current situation in Ukraine, with the Kremlin accusing Kiev of an increasingly belligerent tone.
Russia has denied that troop movements are in preparation for war, with presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov noting that soldiers move around regularly to be in areas where they are deemed ‘necessary and expedient.’
‘Russia has never threatened and is not threatening anyone and poses no threat to anyone,’ he said.