Foreign Secretary Warns Russia Against Incursions Into Ukraine After Putin Criticises The West
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has criticised Russian President Vladimir Putin for inflaming tension with Ukraine today after he said the contested Donbas region should be determined by the people who live there.
Tension between Russia, Ukraine and NATO has been building for months, and Russia now has 122,000 troops within 120 miles of the Ukranian border, according to Ukraine’s Security and Defense Council. The Russian President today blamed NATO for moving eastwards and said he would prioritise Russia's security in a four hour long press conference.
"The future of Donbass should be determined by the people who live in Donbass..." Putin said at his traditional end-of-year media address held in Moscow.
"It cannot be any other way. We see our role as mediators in creating the best conditions for determining the future of the people who live in this territory."
He said some historical Russian lands with Russian populations were moved into Ukraine when it was created and there is an attempt to "squeeze out Russian people, those who speak Russian".
NATO was also accused of "cheating" by expanding eastwards by Putin, who warned that he will act to ensure the country's security "today and in the future".
Truss strongly criticised Russia's position, saying: “I condemn the Kremlin’s aggressive and inflammatory rhetoric against Ukraine and NATO. NATO is a defensive alliance and Ukraine continues to show commendable restraint in the face of Russian provocation and aggression.
“Russia’s military build-ups on the border of Ukraine and in illegally-annexed Crimea are unacceptable. Any Russian incursion would be a massive strategic mistake and would be met with strength, including coordinated sanctions with our allies to impose a severe cost on Russia’s interests and economy. The UK’s support for Ukraine is unwavering.
“The only way out of the current situation for Russia is through dialogue and I welcome the fact that Russia has signalled it is willing to enter talks in January. The Russian Government needs to de-escalate its activities and engage in serious discussions.”
During a press conference this afternoon, the Russian leader said missiles were now effectively at the country's "threshold" and they needed guarantees from the West that they won't base weapons in Ukraine, which is a NATO partner country, though not a full member.
His comments were particularly forthright in the context that just yesterday Ukraine, Russia and the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had agreed to restore a full ceasefire between the Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists in the Donbas region of Ukraine.
He also said he welcomes security talks planned in the New Year with the US in Geneva,and doesn't want conflict.
"We have made it absolutely clear that NATO's expansion to the east is unacceptable. What's not clear about it? The United States brought their missiles next to our borders. They are at our threshold," he told journalists at the Manezh Central Exhibition Hall in Moscow.
Claiming Russia was promised no further expansion in the 1990s, but that Poland went on to join NATO, Putin then described how he believed they have had to endure "five wave of expansion" from the alliance since the Cold War.
"We must think about the security. We do not care about negotiations. We want the result and I've been talking about it a number of times. Not a single inch to the east. That's what we heard in the 1990s. So now look at what happened... they just cheated us vehemently, blatantly... now, they're in Poland."
He continued: "So they have the offensive weapons in there. Now they're saying... now we will have Ukraine as well. It means they will deploy their weapons there."
On Wednesday German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters that “my concern is great” about Russian troop movement along the border and called for further talks.
However, the ceasfire struck in the Donbas region was described by Ukrainian presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak as a step towards de-escalation.
Putin told reporters that Russia wants to avoid conflict with Ukraine, telling one reporter: "This is not our [preferred] choice, that is not what we want."
He said NATO's expansion eastwards was akin to him placing troops on Mexico's border with the US.
"What would Americans do if we we went to the border between Canada [and] the United States or to the border with Mexico and deploy our missiles there?"
He said that Russia did not want to be "sly about it", but have been direct that NATO should not expand any further, adding that the ball is now in their court.
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