Russia ‘threatening Ukraine with destruction’, Kyiv says | Conflict News

The Foreign Minister’s comments come as his colleagues from the Baltic states visit Kiev in solidarity.

The Ukrainian Foreign Minister has accused Russia of openly threatening Ukraine with destruction as fears of a possible escalation of hostilities in the conflict-affected east of the country continue to grow.

In recent weeks, fighting has increased in the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, where government forces have been fighting against Russia-backed separatists since April 2014 after the rebels captured part of the territory there.

Russia has now amassed tens of thousands of troops, as well as tanks and artillery near the common border in the region. Moscow has also mobilized troops in the annexed Black Sea region of Crimea, which it seized from Ukraine in March 2014.

At a press conference on Thursday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba condemned the Kremlin’s “tightening of the security situation” and accused Russian experts and officials of “openly threatening Ukraine with war and the destruction of the Ukrainian statehood”.

“Moscow’s actions and statements [are] aimed to escalate military tensions and undermine diplomatic efforts to resolve the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, ”he said.

Kuleba also warned Moscow against launching an incursion into Ukraine, stating that tightening escalation in the Donbass region, which includes Donetsk and Lugansk, would have “very painful” consequences for Russia.

“The red line of Ukraine is the state border. If Russia crosses the red line, it has to suffer, ”he said. “The world is on the side of Ukraine and international law.”

Baltic nations gather around Ukraine

Kuleba’s warning came when the foreign ministers of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia arrived in Ukraine Thursday morning to show solidarity over Russia’s military build-up.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters that “Ukraine will never be alone”.

“We stand with you, we stand in solidarity,” he said.

Russia has previously said that its troop movements pose no threat and are only defensive. It was also stated that the military units would remain in position as long as the Kremlin saw fit.

But the build-up has alerted Ukraine’s allies and urged NATO to call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to order a retreat.

On Wednesday, NATO members Germany and the US called on Moscow to reverse course and de-escalate the situation in the region.

A day earlier, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia to end its “unjustified” military build-up.

While Kiev has welcomed the shows of Western support, they fall short of Ukraine’s desire for full NATO membership – which Moscow rejects.

Moscow accuses NATO, the US

Moscow has refused to change direction, and this week accused NATO and the US of turning Ukraine into a “powder keg” with the country’s increasing arms supply.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied interfering in Donbass, but Ukraine and several Western countries said the separatist forces in the region were armed, led, funded and supported by Russia.

On Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in the first public description of the military build-up that Moscow had moved two army and three paratrooper units to the western border to test combat readiness and respond to what he called threatened military action by NATO.

Shoigu said on state television that the three-week exercise should be completed over the next two weeks.

He also claimed NATO deployed 40,000 soldiers and 15,000 military equipment near Russia’s borders, mainly in the Black Sea and the Baltic States. NATO denies having made such plans.

Russia has previously accused NATO of destabilizing Europe with its troop reinforcements in the Baltic States and Poland since the annexation of Crimea, which followed an uprising in which former Kremlin-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown.