In an escalation of mutual accusations between Russia, Ukraine and NATO, the Russian forces renewed, on Friday, their criticism of the NATO military reinforcements on its borders.
The command of the Russian Southern Military District, according to “Novosti Agency”, said that NATO’s strengthening of its military capabilities near Russia’s borders and the possibility of an exacerbation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine pose major threats to security in the south of the country.
The commander of the Southern District, Alexander Dvornikov, added that “his country is concentrating its efforts to maintain combat readiness in the south to ensure the protection of its interests and the security of the region.”
In turn, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov criticized the Ukrainian moves by sea, saying that the recent dispatch of a Ukrainian warship to the Kerch Strait shows once again the extent of the damage and potential danger as a result of such provocations.
On the other hand, NATO today renewed its position in support of Ukraine. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said after meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defense Minister Florence Parly in Paris that the alliance strongly supports Kiev’s membership.
He also warned Russia against invading Ukraine, asking it to stop escalation and pursue a diplomatic solution.
The two countries exchanged blame yesterday evening after the collapse of an effort to agree on a new ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, with tensions escalating due to the continued reinforcements of Russian forces near the border.
Kiev accused Moscow of rejecting a series of proposals, including a prisoner exchange, reopening checkpoints and expanding joint communications centres. A statement by the Ukrainian delegation in the tripartite contact group, which also includes Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said, “Unfortunately, Russia rejected all the initiatives of the Ukrainian side based on fabricated pretexts.”
Russia considered that Kiev made “completely unreasonable” proposals, referring to a proposal to include Germany and France in the Joint Control and Coordination Center, a group tasked with implementing ceasefire agreements.
Russian forces near the Ukraine border (Archive – Reuters)
For its part, the Organization for Security and Cooperation did not issue any comment.
Contrary to chronic suspicion
It is noteworthy that the United States and the Europeans, in the past weeks, have accused Moscow of preparing to invade Ukraine, which the Russians have repeatedly denied.
However, the Ukrainian issue has always been sensitive to the Kremlin. During the last period, he expressed his discontent with Kiev’s deployment of (Turkish) drones near the border, and repeatedly criticized Ukraine’s attempts to join NATO.
Russian President Vladimir Putin blames the West for not fulfilling a promise they made at the end of the Cold War not to expand the alliance to the east.
In addition, the “Crimean wound” is still engraved in the heart of Kiev, after a popular uprising in Ukraine toppled the Moscow-backed regime in 2014. After that, Moscow annexed the Crimea.
While Ukrainian forces are still facing off with Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country, after this conflict led to the deaths of 13,000 people.