Ukraine calls for NATO deterrent package to stop Russian invasion
Ukraine has called for a “deterrent package” from NATO to stop a Russian invasion amid fresh threats from the Kremlin-backed Belarusian dictator that “Kiev is ours.”
Vladimir Putin has sent some 94,000 troops to the Ukrainian border, raising fears of an attack that would far surpass the 2014 conquest of Crimea.
Russia today claimed that Ukraine has sent half of its standing army, or 125,000 troops, to the Donbass region, where government forces have been battling Russian-backed separatists for eight years.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told colleagues at a NATO summit in Latvia that he was “confident” that this could be prevented by a “three-pronged approach”: communication with Moscow, threat of sanctions and military support for Kiev.
Fears mounted today as Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko told a Russian propaganda channel: ‘I will do everything I can to make Ukraine ours. It’s our Ukraine, people there are our people.’
Putin claims his forces are simply responding to a buildup of military personnel on the Russian border, and a Kremlin spokesman today claimed that Ukraine had sent half of its army, or 125,000 troops, to the border.
A tank participating in NATO exercises in Adazi, Lativa . on Monday
A Ukrainian soldier sips coffee in his dugout on the front lines of rebel-held Donetsk on Sunday
A map shared with Military Times and replicated above shows Ukrainian intelligence bracing for a bloody and brutal invasion that could capture parts of Ukraine in an attack that would pale in comparison to the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday called for direct negotiations with Russia to end an eight-year war with pro-Russian separatists in the east of his country.
“We must tell the truth that we cannot end the war without direct talks with Russia,” Zelensky said during an annual address to lawmakers.
US diplomatic chief Antony Blinken will meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Stockholm on Thursday to deal with the crisis.
The US Secretary of State will hold talks with Lavrov on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) after meeting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba.
Russian battalions have been sent around Ukraine on three sides: from the Black Sea to the south, Russia to the east, and along the 700-mile northern border it shares with Belarus.
Lukashenko had already made it clear that he is ready to deploy Russian nuclear weapons on his territory – near three EU and NATO countries, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
But in an interview with Russian television, he went on to say, “I will never support the current nationalist frenzy in Ukraine.
“I will do everything I can to make Ukraine ours.
‘Ukraine is ours, the people there are ours.
‘These are not emotions, but my firm conviction.
“So if, God forbid, we have to face Russia, if Russia faces aggression from Ukraine, we will act in the strictest possible — legal, economic, political — on the Russian side.”
Lukashenko, whose economy and power depend entirely on Putin, has been accused of ‘arming’ migrants by deploying his security forces to help Iraqi Kurds and others break the EU’s border into Poland in what will be a ‘hybrid war’ called.
Lukashenko’s pledge to give Putin full military support came after Russia announced “large-scale” exercises involving “more than 10,000 troops” in its southern military district, defense minister Zvezda said.
Amid high tension, warplanes from Russia and landlocked Belarus were seen on joint patrol in Su-30SM multirole fighters off Belarus’ borders with NATO.
“About a third of units from all formations and military units in the district begin winter training in the field,” the military press service said.
It specified that the exercises would be in Volgograd and Ingushetia, nor near Ukraine.
Separately, Russian TV and social media went on the offensive against British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, accusing her of wooing former Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whom Moscow dubbed the “Iron Lady” in 1976.
Rossiya 1’s prime time news mocks Truss for her tank ride in Estonia ahead of the NATO summit in Latvia’s capital Riga.
“For some reason, Britain’s foreign secretary – who has already left the EU – has decided to appear at the European Union’s easternmost border,” the report said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko attend a press conference after their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia on September 9.
Liz Truss visits British troops during NATO exercise in Estonia
Foreign Minister Liz Truss visits British troops on Monday during deployment to Estonia
“Ahead of the summit, Liz Truss visited Estonian British troops stationed nearby.
‘The minister took a tank ride there.’
The media “then rushed to compare Liz Truss to Margaret Thatcher – and again they talked about the minister potentially replacing Boris Johnson, who is losing popularity, as Conservative leader.”
Another TV host Olga Skabeeva – nicknamed the “Iron Doll of Putin TV” – posted that Truss “warned Russia against being aggressive towards Ukraine.
‘Yet she herself drives a tank in Estonia close to the Russian border.
“A kind of freak show.”
TV host Vladimir Solovyov added: “Imagine (Russian Foreign Minister) Sergei Lavrov riding a tank, say, in Belarus near the Polish border.
‘What would be the reaction of the entire world community?
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, on the other hand, rode a tank in Estonia during her visit to the Baltic States.
‘What is that supposed to mean? Is this the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?
“Do you think this is enough?”
Earlier, Moscow’s Foreign Ministry responded to the Truss warning that “any action by Russia to undermine the freedom and democracy enjoyed by our partners would be a strategic mistake.”
Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: ‘We are not encroaching on strategic mistakes – this is Britain’s historic prerogative.’
A Spanish tank participating Monday in NATO’s annual exercise ‘Winter Shield’ in Adazi, Lativa
An armored tracked vehicle taking part in NATO’s annual ‘Winter Shield’ exercise on Monday in Adazi, Latvia
A Latvian soldier jumps from a military vehicle during NATO’s annual military exercise
Putin had issued a sharp warning to the West on Tuesday.
He expressed concern that NATO could use Ukrainian territory to deploy missiles that could reach Russian command centers within minutes.
“The emergence of such threats is a ‘red line’ for us,” he said.
“I hope common sense and responsibility for their own country and the world community will eventually prevail.”
Russian UN representative Dmitry Polyansky warned of Russian anger at the West’s line on pro-Putin rebels in eastern Ukraine.
He said “this devastating path” could lead to “very dangerous developments.”