Kremlin warns against NATO troops to Ukraine

Unidentified armed men outside a military base in the village of Perevalnoye in Crimea, on March 2, 2014. Russia on Friday warned against sending NATO troops to Ukraine amid an uptick in violence. (Photo: NYTimes)
MOSCOW — The Kremlin said on Friday that Moscow would be forced to take measures if the West sends troops to Ukraine to buttress its ally, amid reports of a Russian troop buildup on the border.اضافة اعلان

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday accused Russia of massing troops on the border and Washington pledged to stand by Ukraine in the event of Russian "aggression".

"There is no doubt such a scenario would lead to a further increase in tensions close to Russia's borders. Of course, this would call for additional measures from the Russian side to ensure its security," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. 

He declined to specify which measures would be adopted.

He insisted that Russia was not making moves to threaten Ukraine.

"Russia is not threatening anyone, it has never threatened anyone," Peskov said, accusing Ukraine's armed forces of "multiple" provocations.

The war in eastern Ukraine broke out in 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula following an uprising that ousted Ukraine's Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych.

Moscow and Kiev this week blamed each other for a rise in violence between government forces and Kremlin-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, which has undermined a ceasefire brokered last year. 

Zelensky said 20 Ukrainian servicemen had been killed since the start of the year. 

Ukraine's military intelligence accused Russia of preparing to "expand its military presence" in the separatist-controlled eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk.

On Thursday, the United States warned Russia against "intimidating" Ukraine, with both Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling their Ukrainian counterparts to stress support.

A senior Russian diplomat said Friday that Moscow had no interest in an escalated conflict with Ukraine.

"Russia is not interested in any conflict with Ukraine, especially a military one," deputy foreign minister Andrei Rudenko told state news agency RIA Novosti.

"We expect that Ukraine will demonstrate good judgement and refrain from steps that can provoke a conflict," he said. The Kremlin said on Friday that any deployment of NATO troops to Ukraine would lead to further tensions near Russia's borders and force Moscow to take extra measures to ensure its own security.