Ukraine: Russia issued warning by US as hostilities intensify
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The United States called on Russia to halt a military build-up on Ukraine’s border on Tuesday as Moscow, in words recalling the Cold War, said its “adversary” should keep US warships well away from annexed Crimea. In Brussels for talks with NATO leaders and Ukraine’s foreign minister, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington stood firmly behind Ukraine. He also said he would discuss Kyiv’s ambitions to one day join NATO although France and Germany have long worried that bringing the former Soviet republic into the Western alliance would antagonise Russia.
Mr Blinken told NBC News: “President Biden has been very clear about this.
“If Russia acts recklessly or aggressively, there will be consequences.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies: “The United States is our adversary and does everything it can to undermine Russia’s position on the world stage.”
Ryabkov’s remarks suggest that the diplomatic niceties which the former Cold War enemies have generally sought to observe in recent decades are fraying and that Russia would robustly push back against what it regards as unacceptable US interference in its sphere of influence.
He added: “We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast.
“It will be for their own good.”
Mr Blinken met Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba after Group of Seven foreign ministers condemned what they said was the unexplained rise in Russian troop numbers.
Echoing NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who met Kuleba earlier, Blinken said Moscow was massing forces in its biggest build-up since 2014 since Moscow annexed Crimea.
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He called Russia’s actions “very provocative”.
“In recent weeks Russia has moved thousands of combat-ready troops to Ukraine’s borders, the largest massing of Russian troops since the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014,” Stoltenberg said.
“Russia must end this military build-up in and around Ukraine, stop its provocations and de-escalate immediately,” Stoltenberg said at a news conference with Kuleba.
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Russia has said it moves its forces around as it sees fit, including for defensive purposes. It has regularly accused NATO of destabilising Europe with its troop reinforcements in the Baltics and Poland since the annexation of Crimea.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday Russia had moved two armies and three paratrooper units to near its western borders in the last three weeks, responding to what it called threatening military action by NATO.
Shoigu, speaking on state television, said NATO was deploying 40,000 troops near Russia’s borders, mainly in the Black Sea and the Baltic regions.
“In total, 40,000 troops and 15,000 weapons and pieces of military equipment are concentrated near our territory, including strategic aircraft,” Shoigu said.
The Western alliance denies any such plans.
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