Ukraine urges NATO to speed up membership in 'signal' to Moscow
Ukraine urges NATO to speed up membership in 'signal' to MoscowZelensky spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after an increase in clashes and Russian military movements on the border raised fears of an escalation of the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Russia's deputy foreign minister has called the U.S. an "adversary" as tensions increase between Moscow and Washington amid a build-up of Russian troops by the Ukrainian border.
In a departure from the Kremlin's usual description of the U.S. as a "partner"—however fraught that partnership might be—Sergei Ryabkov's comments follow a warning by Secretary of State Antony Blinken that "there would be consequences" if Moscow "acts recklessly" in Ukraine.
Kremlin says not moving towards war with Ukraine
The Kremlin on Sunday said it was not moving towards war with Ukraine as Russia increased its military presence on the border with Ukraine's eastern breakaway territories. In recent weeks fighting has intensified between Ukraine's army and pro-Russian separatists controlling two regions in the country's east, raising concerns of major escalation in the long-running conflict. "Of course, nobody is planning to move towards war and in general, nobody accepts the possibility of such a war," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a televised interview on Sunday.
Increased fighting between Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country has spurred global concerns of a full-blown conflagration or invasion.
Blinken said on Sunday there were the most Russian troops on Ukraine's border since 2014, when Moscow annexed Crimea and Kremlin-backed separatists fought in Ukraine's southeast Donbas region.
Ryabkov told reporters on Tuesday that those in the U.S. "talk about a high price, but they never name it." In any case, he said, "we do not believe in such terminology [as] price and retribution."
"We are simply defending our interests and the interests of our citizens—the Russian-speaking population—and we will continue to protect them," he said, according to Interfax.
What is behind the growing tensions in Ukraine?
The Ukrainian government’s push for NATO membership could provoke a dangerous escalation of the Ukrainian conflict.Western observers have been speculating that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to test US President Joe Biden’s resolve or that he wants to distract public attention in Russia from the plight of the first poisoned, then imprisoned opposition leader Aleksey Navalny. It is also not inconceivable that he might be entertaining the idea of replicating the “Crimea effect” by waging “a small victorious war” on the eve of parliamentary elections in September. In 2014, the annexation of Crimea resulted in a huge surge in his personal popularity.
"The United States is our adversary—doing everything to undermine Russia's position in the international arena. We see no other elements in their approach to us.
"The United States and other NATO countries are deliberately turning Ukraine into a powder keg," Ryabkov added. Newsweek has contacted the State Department for comment.
His comments came on the same day that NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a press conference Russia's troop build-up was "unjustified, unexplained and deeply concerning."
As the simmering conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people continues to escalate despite a ceasefire last year, Kyiv has said that Russia has about 40,000 troops on the eastern border and about 40,000 in Crimea.
"Russia must end this military buildup in and around Ukraine, stop its provocations and de-escalate immediately," Stoltenberg said.
Russia has repeatedly dismissed criticism of its troop presence, describing it as a sovereign issue for Russia, with Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov saying on Sunday "nobody is planning to move toward war."
Why Putin may not be planning invasion Ukraine fears
President Biden's proposal for a summit with Russia's leader means the risk of an escalation has faded.As the hostile rhetoric and military moves around Ukraine have intensified, Western politicians have begun fearing an open invasion and urging Russia's Vladimir Putin to "de-escalate".
Meanwhile, Russia's defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, accused Washington and NATO of massing troops on Russian borders, with most of them concentrated in the Baltic region and the Black Sea.
Shoigu said on Tuesday in televised remarks that Russian troops had been sent to its western borders for training exercises over the next fortnight, "in response to the alliance's military activities that threaten Russia."
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Russia begins drawdown of troops from Ukraine borders .
Russia on Friday began withdrawing troops that had been running drills near the borders of Ukraine, the defence ministry said, following weeks of heightened tensions between Moscow and the West over the buildup. "Military units and formations are currently marching to railway loading stations and airfields, and loading onto landing ships, railway platforms and military transport aircraft," the ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.