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Russia accuses West of plotting ‘provocations’ in Ukraine

MOSCOW (AP) – Russia accused the West yesterday of plotting “provocations” in Ukraine even as it blames Moscow of planning aggressive military action in the neighbouring country.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova alleged that Ukrainian and Western claims of an imminent Russian attack on Ukraine were a “cover for staging large-scale provocations of their own, including those of military character”.

“They may have extremely tragic consequences for the regional and global security,” Zakharova said.

She pointed to the delivery of weapons to Ukraine by British military transport planes in recent days, claiming that Ukraine perceives Western military assistance as a “carte blanche for a military operation in Donbas”.

Donbas, located in eastern Ukraine, is under control of Russia-backed separatists who have fought Ukrainian forces for nearly eight years, a conflict that has killed more than 14,000 people.

Ukraine said earlier this week that it has taken the delivery of anti-tank missiles from the United Kingdom (UK) It has rejected Moscow’s claims that it plans an offensive to reclaim control of separatist-held areas in the country’s eastern industrial heartland.

A convoy of Russian armoured vehicles moves along a highway in Crimea. PHOTO: AP

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s government, the United States (US) and its NATO allies have expressed intensifying concerns in recent weeks over a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine. The concentration of an estimated 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine has fuelled Western fears that Moscow is poised to attack its neighbour.

US President Joe Biden said Wednesday he thinks Russia will invade Ukraine and warned President Vladimir Putin that his country would pay a “dear price” in lives lost and a possible cutoff from the global banking system if it does.

Moscow has repeatedly denied having plans to launch an offensive. But it has sought a set of security guarantees from the West that would exclude NATO’s expansion to Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations and the deployment of the alliance weapons there.

Washington and its allies firmly rejected Moscow’s demands in security talks last weeks, but kept the door open to possible further talks on arms control and confidence-building measures to reduce the potential for hostilities.

Amid the tensions, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ukraine Wednesday to reassure it of Western support. He travelled to Berlin yesterday to meet with his British, French and German counterparts to discuss Ukraine and other security matters.

Blinken delivered a speech on the Ukraine crisis in the German capital before flying on to Geneva, Switzerland, where he will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov today.