Moscow has warned that fighting is escalating in eastern Ukraine, insisting that the region must avoid a full-scale conflict, as Kiev asks NATO to step up its local combat readiness and says the US would come to its aid in a war.
Speaking to journalists on Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that a series of military clashes in the Donbass region was a cause for concern. “Unfortunately for us,” he said, “the reality on the line of contact is quite frightening, and not just one, but many, provocations by the Ukrainian Armed Forces are taking place.”
Kiev insists that Russia is building up troops near the shared border and blames separatists, who have previously received support from Moscow, for breaking a ceasefire. “Russia’s current escalation is systemic, [the] largest in recent years,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dimitry Kuleba said in a statement issued earlier this week. Kiev officials last week said that four of its soldiers had been killed by shelling during clashes with rebels in the east of the country.
Andrey Rudenko, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, denied that Moscow had anything to gain from an increase in tensions. “I am sure that all the talk about some upcoming conflict between Ukraine and Russia is an example of another fake spread primarily by the Ukrainian authorities,” he said. “Russia is not interested in any conflict with Ukraine, let alone a military one.”
In a statement released on Friday, it was confirmed that an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had proposed that NATO should increase its presence in the country. As part of a call with representatives from two of the US-led military bloc’s member states, Roman Mashovets, deputy head of the Office of the President, said that “such actions of the Russian Federation pose a challenge to the security of Ukraine and NATO, which must be balanced by joint efforts.”
The missive revealed that one option Mashovets put forward was “joint activities, including military exercises of Ukraine and NATO.” These activities, it added “should include land, naval and air components. In addition, it is advisable to increase the level of combat readiness of troops in NATO countries bordering Ukraine.”
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