Friday, January 21

NATO chief warns Russia against “further provocations” amid Ukrainian tensions | Russia

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned Moscow against “any further provocation or aggressive action” following warnings from US officials that Russia may be preparing to launch a winter offensive in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said last week that Russia had mustered about 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s border, as Washington warned that Moscow may be “trying to repeat” its 2014 invasion.

“We have seen large and unusual concentrations of Russian forces near Ukraine’s borders,” Stoltenberg said Monday. “NATO remains vigilant… Any other provocation or aggressive action on the part of Russia would be of great concern. We ask Russia to be transparent about its military activities. “

Stoltenberg’s remarks came at a meeting with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at NATO headquarters in Brussels, where the two discussed “the security situation in and around Ukraine.”

“We have to have clear eyes,” Stoltenberg said. “We need to be realistic about the challenges we face. And what we see is a large, significant Russian military build-up. “

Satellite images and videos uploaded to social media have shown tanks, artillery and short-range ballistic missiles moving in the border regions of Ukraine and Belarus since late last month.

Some of that weaponry was moved into the region earlier this year during a large-scale build-up that sounded alarms in the west. But new rail shipments of military hardware have been detected in southern Russia and from as far away as Russia’s Urals region, as well as the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.

While Stoltenberg said he did not want to speculate on the intentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he called the situation “dangerous” and said it would allow Russia to launch offensive operations on short notice.

Analysts have noted that a previous Russian offensive in Ukraine against the city of Debaltseve in 2015 was also launched in winter, when lower temperatures make it easier to transport armor and other heavy weapons.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson argued Monday that the West will soon have to stop relying on Russian oil and gas if it wants to oppose the aggression.
towards Ukraine.

In a warning to European countries that rely heavily on Russian gas in particular, the prime minister noted that he believed Putin could take restriction of supplies from gas pipelines running through Eastern Europe seriously if the West signals its intention to defend Ukraine. .

Speaking at the Lord Mayor’s banquet in London, Johnson said: “When our Polish friends asked for our help in dealing with an artificial crisis on their border with Belarus, we responded quickly. And we hope that our friends will recognize that there will soon be a choice between keeping more and more Russian hydrocarbons in giant new pipelines and defending Ukraine and defending the cause of peace and stability, let me put it that way. “

US President Joe Biden sent CIA Director Bill Burns to Moscow this month to warn Putin that the US was closely watching the build-up, US media reported.

“I hope that now the whole world can see clearly who really wants peace and who is concentrating almost 100,000 soldiers on our border,” Zelenskiy said in a speech last week.

Meanwhile, Russia has denied that it has plans to launch offensive operations against Ukraine.

Putin complained this weekend about Ukraine’s use of Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone strikes in Donbass, saying they violated a 2015 ceasefire agreement. And senior Russian military officials have accused NATO of a surge in Europe. and in the Black Sea.

Russian military movements occur as tensions rise over the migration crisis on Belarus’s border with the European Union. Belarus warned that any conflict could attract Russia, as the two countries are allies and jointly defend the country’s borders with NATO.

Last week, Moscow also sent nuclear-capable bombers and paratroopers on training missions to Belarus’s western borders with Poland and Lithuania, while Moscow and Minsk conducted joint exercises.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis also suggested that the Kremlin may be using the Belarusian border crisis as a smokescreen to prepare an attack.

“It is very likely that Ukraine will be attacked as we deal with the situation on the border of Poland, Lithuania and Belarus,” he said.

He added that the build-up was “actually the same distance from the Belarusian border and the same distance from the Ukraine border, so I think what Putin might be playing is that we don’t have an answer.” [are kept guessing] who is being attacked ”.

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