MOSCOW, Dec 2 (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Thursday that the probability of a new conflict in eastern Ukraine remained high and that Moscow was concerned by “aggressive” rhetoric from Kyiv and an increase in what it called provocative actions.
The comments come amid Ukrainian and western concerns over a buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine. Moscow denies planning an invasion and accuses Ukraine of building up its own forces in the east of the country.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call that Moscow was worried about the possibility of a Ukrainian military move in eastern Ukraine, something that Kyiv has denied planning.
Peskov also said that Russia viewed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s pledge to return annexed Crimea as a direct threat.
“Such a formulation means that Kyiv may use any option, including force, to try and encroach on a Russian region,” he said.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, drawing western condemnation and sanctions.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba met the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell on Thursday to speed up work on specific economic restrictions which could hit the Russian economy if Moscow launches a new offensive, Kuleba said.
Ukraine and its NATO allies have sounded the alarm about Russian troop movements near Ukraine’s borders this year, sparking worries that a simmering conflict in eastern Ukraine could erupt into open war between the two neighbours.
“We discussed the need to deter Russia and speed up work on specific economic restrictions which will be able to hit the Russian economy should Moscow decide to launch a new stage of aggression against Ukraine,” Kuleba said in a tweet.
Photo – Russian servicemen display military camouflage equipments during the joint military anti-terrorist command and staff exercise of the armed forces of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states Peace Mission-2021 at the Donguz training ground in the Orenburg region, Russia,. EPA-EFE/MAXIM SHIPENKOV