© Reuters. Snipers from the Ukrainian armed forces aim their rifles during training in the Donetsk region
By Robin Emmott and Andrew Osborn
The United States urged Russia to stop military construction on the Ukrainian border on Tuesday because Moscow, reiterating the Cold War, said its “adversary” should keep American warships away from annexed Crimea.
Moscow captured Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and fighting has escalated in recent weeks in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have fought Russian-backed separatists in a seven-year conflict. which Kyiv says killed 14,000 people.
US President Joe Biden, in a phone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, underlined Washington’s “unwavering commitment” to Ukraine’s sovereignty and expressed concern over the Russian military building, the White House. said.
Biden also proposed a summit between the two leaders in a third country.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Brussels for Tuesday’s talks with NATO leaders and Ukraine’s foreign minister, reiterated Biden, saying that the US is firmly behind Ukraine.
Blinken also said he would discuss Kyiv’s ambitions to one day join NATO – although France and Germany have long been worried that bringing the former Soviet republic into the Western alliance will offensive to Russia.
“The United States is our enemy and does everything it can to undermine Russia’s position in the world,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted by Russian news agencies on Tuesday.
Ryabkov’s remarks show that the diplomatic goodwill that former Cold War-era foes have often sought to adhere to in recent decades is fading, and that Russia will forcefully repel what it sees as a fight. Unacceptable US cards in its sphere of influence.
Two US warships will arrive in the Black Sea this week.
“We warn the United States that it is better to stay away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast. It will be good for themselves,” Ryabkov said, calling the US deployment a provocation. aimed at Russia’s nerve test.
PLEASE CALL CONFIRMATION DE-ESCALATION
Blinken met with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Brussels after Group 7 Foreign Minister condemned what they said was an unexplained increase in Russian numbers.
Speaking of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who had met Kuleba before, Mr. Blinken said Moscow was gathering forces in its largest construction phase since 2014, since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. He called Russia’s actions “very provocative”.
“In recent weeks, Russia has dispatched thousands of combat-ready troops to the Ukrainian border, the largest surge since the annexation of Crimea in 2014,” said Stoltenberg.
“Russia must stop its military build-up in and around Ukraine, stop provocations and reduce escalation immediately,” Stoltenberg said at a press conference with Kuleba.
Russia has said it will move its forces as it sees fit, including for defensive purposes. It has frequently accused NATO of destabilizing Europe with its military reinforcements in Baltics and Poland since its annexation of Crimea.
Asked if Ukraine could repel a Russian invasion, the head of US forces in Europe told US lawmakers in a hearing on Tuesday that he believes Ukraine can do it. that “from time to time”.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday said Russia had dispatched two armies and three paratroopers to its western border in the past three weeks, in response to what NATO called a threat of action. military.
Speaking on state television, Shoigu said NATO was deploying 40,000 troops near Russia’s border, mainly in the Black Sea and Baltic regions.
“In total, 40,000 troops and 15,000 weapons and military equipment are gathered near our territory, including the strategic aircraft,” said Mr. Shoigu.
The Western Union denies any such plans.
PENALTY, MILITARY HELP
Kuleba says Kyiv wants a diplomatic solution.
Kyiv and Moscow have blamed the worsening situation in the eastern Donbass region, where Ukrainian troops fought with Russian-backed separatists.
Kuleba called for more economic sanctions on Moscow and more military support for Kyiv.
“At the operational level, we need measures to deter Russia and curb their aggressive intentions,” Kuleba said after the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Committee at coalition headquarters.
This can be a direct support to increase the defense capabilities of Ukraine.
Separately, the two diplomats said Stoltenberg will host a video meeting with allied foreign and defense ministers on Wednesday. Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are expected to be at NATO headquarters in Brussels to inform 29 other allies about Ukraine and Afghanistan, the diplomats said.
Austin, during a visit to Berlin, said the United States would strengthen its forces in Germany due to friction with Moscow, giving up on former President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw about 12,000 of the 36,000 troops from it.
Kyiv welcomed Western support, but this did not give Ukraine any desire to become a full member of NATO.