As the military build-up continues, Russia considers Ukraine’s accession to NATO a red line, and Washington and Moscow warn of the consequences

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Ukraine’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a red line for Russia, while Western powers affirmed their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of the Russian military buildup.

Eastern Ukraine is witnessing a war between Kiev and pro-Russian separatists that erupted in 2014 after Moscow annexed the Crimea, and the conflict has claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that NATO’s tendency to include Georgia and Ukraine in the alliance would be a time bomb in the heart of the European continent.

Lavrov stressed in his speech today, Thursday, during the meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe held in Stockholm, that turning our neighboring countries into a starting point for confrontation with Russia, and deploying NATO forces in close proximity to areas of strategic importance to our security, is categorically unacceptable.

He added that security in Europe cannot be fragmented, and that this security can either be or not be, as he put it.

Lavrov stressed that Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed a dialogue with the West to reach long-term legal guarantees that NATO would not expand to the east, and to compromises that meet the interests of all parties.

Find out saying “The Russian president stressed that Moscow does not want a conflict with Ukraine,” he added, adding that they are ready to take steps to seek a solution to the Ukrainian crisis.

But he accused the West of supplying Ukraine with weapons, and what he called the illusion of the possibility of a military solution to the conflict in Donbass.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had said in response to NATO’s approach to Russia’s borders, that Moscow would take appropriate military measures.

Putin called – during a ceremony in the Kremlin – to enter into substantive negotiations with Western countries with the aim of reaching concrete agreements and legal guarantees to ensure that NATO does not expand to the east and does not deploy weapons systems that “threaten us very close to Russian territory.”

This comes at a time when Russia is preparing for military exercises with the participation of more than 10,000 soldiers, according to what was announced by the Russian Southern Military District Command. The exercises will take place in thirty fields, including provinces bordering Ukraine, Crimea and others.

On the other hand, the Russian Federal Security Service announced the arrest of three Ukrainian spies it said were working for the Ukrainian intelligence, without saying when and where they were arrested.

The Russian State Security Service said in a statement that two of these spies carried out a filming operation of Russian facilities of strategic importance, while the third, an officer of the Ukrainian Military Intelligence, was sent to commit a terrorist act.

Western support

On the other hand, the Western powers affirmed their support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in the face of the Russian military build-up, warning Moscow of the consequences.

“If Russia persists in its aggression, there will be consequences,” said US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

On the other hand, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that Lavrov assured Blinkin that “the consequences of bringing Ukraine into the US geopolitical game will have dire consequences.”

In a press conference with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, Blinken affirmed the West’s commitment to the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine, and said, “We support diplomatic options to resolve the crisis.”

AFP reported that Lavrov told Blinken that Russia needed “security guarantees” on the border.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) confirmed its unwavering support for Ukraine in protecting its eastern borders.

The meeting between Kuleba and Blinken came a day after Kiev called on NATO – of which it is not a member – to prepare to impose economic sanctions on Russia that would deter it from launching a new attack on eastern Ukraine, which Moscow denies.

international response

In the same context, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said – today, Thursday, during his visit to South Korea – that any US response to Russia’s actions towards Ukraine will be in coordination with the international community, and called on Moscow to be transparent about its military buildup on Ukraine’s borders.

In response to a question about whether the possible sanctions on Russia would be economic only, Minister Austin declined to answer directly, saying only that “the best methods will be used, and within the response of the international community.”

Ukraine – a former Soviet republic that aspires to join the European Union and NATO – has become the main focus of tension between Russia and the West, whose relations have deteriorated to their worst level in three decades since the end of the Cold War.

Kiev says that Russia has deployed more than 90,000 soldiers near the Ukrainian border, which Moscow denies, accusing Kiev of continuing to build up its forces in the Donbas region (eastern Ukraine), which is controlled by separatist militants backed by Moscow.

The Russian leadership described the West’s talk of its readiness to launch an attack on Ukraine as provocative, but it defended its right to deploy forces on its territory as it sees fit. The Russian army began military exercises on Wednesday near the border with Ukraine.

The Secretary-General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, said yesterday – on the second and last day of the ministerial meeting of the alliance countries – that NATO has wide options to confront the Russian challenge to Ukraine’s borders, including economic, political and financial sanctions.

Stoltenberg added that NATO is strengthening Ukraine’s defense capabilities by training its forces and providing them with information, urging it to complete its steps to join the alliance.

direct negotiations

On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was to “direct negotiations” with Russia with the aim of “stopping the war” with the Russian-backed separatists in the east of his country.

“We have to tell the truth, which is that we will not be able to stop the war without direct negotiations with Russia,” Zelensky said – yesterday, Wednesday, in a speech to parliament.

In a related context, the Ukrainian army said today, Thursday, that one of its soldiers was killed in attacks by separatists in the Donbass region, accusing them of violating the ceasefire agreement 4 times in the last 24 hours.

In Russia, the Interfax news agency quoted the Federal Security Service today, Thursday, as saying that the authorities had arrested 3 suspected Ukrainian intelligence agents, and accused one of them of plotting to carry out a bomb attack.

The Russian authorities did not specify the date and place of the arrest of the three Ukrainians, and a statement of the Federal Security Service stated that two of the arrested “arrived in Russia to collect information and make video and photo recordings of facilities of vital strategic importance and transport infrastructure.”

He added that “a pistol and an automatic weapon as well as personal protective equipment were found in the car they were using.”

According to the same statement, the two men “confessed to being recruited” by the Ukrainian security services in exchange for $10,000.

And she added that the third person “was arrested in the act of committing sabotage, consisting of two explosive devices, equivalent to 1.5 kilograms of explosives.”

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