Russia: Ambassador to UK denies Ukraine ‘invasion’ plan
And Dmytro Kuleba said the force being assembled by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was fully equipped to paralyse his country within days – while Ukraine’s top diplomat also took a clear swipe at Brussels for its failure to grasp the nettle when it came to economic sanctions. Tension in the region continues to mount, with large numbers of Russian soldiers pressed against Ukraine’s eastern border, where Government troops have been battling Russian separatists.
Additionally, widely circulated footage has shown tanks and other materiel being transported through Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Western officials say the concentration of forces is now larger than during that annexation.
Mr Kuleba told an online press conference yesterday: “Russian troops continue to arrive in close proximity to our borders in the northeast, in the east and in the south.
A Ukrainian tank in the east of the country
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, pictured last month
“In about a week, they are expected to reach a combined force of over 120,000 troops.”
He added: “This does not mean they will stop building up their forces at that number.”
Neither was it just the size of the force which was a reason for concern, Mr Kuleba stressed.
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Russian military equipment close to the border with Ukraine
He explained: “What is even more worrying, is that it is not just troops, but also paratroopers in Crimea, electronic warfare systems able to jam communications over the entire territory of Ukraine, ballistic missiles and some other clear signs of potentially offensive capabilities.”
Urging the West to take a stand, he said: “The cost of preventing Russia’s further escalation will always be lower than the cost of stopping it and mitigating its consequences.
“It is way more effective to clearly make Moscow understand that a new stage of aggression will have dire consequences for Russia, international isolation and painful economic sanctions.”
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Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, is seeking direct talks with Mr Putin
Ukrainian troops have been battling Russian separatists in the east of the country
In an earlier video call on Monday, Mr Kuleba had urged members of the EU27 to “start considering a new round of sectoral sanctions against Russia,” claiming that sanctioning individuals may “complicate lives of some persons” but won’t “stop the war”.
However, speaking yesterday, he suggested Brussels was unlikely to heed his advice, explaining: “I did not register a consensual appetite for sectoral sanctions.”
Mr Kuleba said he had not even bothered to raise the issue of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia to Germany on Monday, given Berlin’s steadfast determination to press ahead in the face of opposition from the United States and other NATO allies.
Russia’s military strength in numbers
Instead, Mr Kuleba said, he had been raising the issue “in all bilateral conservations I’m having”.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has signed a law allowing reservists to be called up for military service without announcing mobilisation, his office confirmed today.
A statement explained: “This will make it possible to quickly equip the military units of all defence forces with reservists, thereby significantly increasing their combat effectiveness during military aggression.”
Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu has accused Ukraine of trying to destabilise the situation
On Tuesday, Zelenskiy urged Mr Putin, to meet him in the Donbass region for talks to end the conflict there and ease tension between the neighbours.
Kyiv and Moscow have traded blame over increasing clashes in the Donbass, where Ukrainian troops have battled Russian-backed forces in a conflict that Ukraine says has killed 14,000 people since 2014.
Meanwhile Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu yesterday accused the United States and NATO of engaging in “provocative activities” in the waters and airspace of the Black Sea.
Mr Shoigu told the Interfax news agency Kyiv was trying to destabilise the situation in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, where Ukrainian troops have battled Russian-backed forces in a conflict which Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people since 2014.