A house on Stratonautov Street in the village of Veseloye, Donetsk region, which was damaged during the fighting in the DPR. © RIA
Russia has warned that it would regard any deployment of Western troops in Ukraine as a serious provocation, after Kiev asked NATO to step up its local combat readiness and claimed the US would come to its aid in any future war.
On Friday, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry issued a statement saying that it had received guarantees of American support after a telephone call with Washington’s top military official, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austen. “The US Secretary of Defense stressed that in the event of an escalation of Russian aggression, the United States will not leave Ukraine alone,” the Ministry said.
Asked about the prospects of a standoff in the region, Peskov warned that this could begin a potentially dangerous chain of events. The Kremlin official said that “undoubtedly, such a developing scenario would lead to a further increase in tensions near Russia’s borders. Of course, this will require additional measures from the Russian side to ensure its security.”
When pressed on what those measures might be, the official said only that the country would do “everything that is needed.”
The public spat comes amid rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine, after a series of reported clashes in the east of the country between Kiev’s forces and militias, who receive support from Moscow. Peskov called the escalations “quite frightening.”
His comments came as US President Joe Biden expressed Washington’s “unwavering support” for Kiev in the face of what he called “Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Donbass and Crimea.” In his Friday phone call with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, he also said his administration is committed to revitalizing the “strategic partnership” between the two nations.
Zelensky responded by saying that Kiev and Washington “stand shoulder to shoulder when it comes to preservation of our democracies” and called partnership with the US “crucial for Ukrainians.”
Ukraine has appealed to the US-led military bloc to increase its presence in the region. A call transcript published on Friday showed that Roman Mashovets, Deputy Head of the Office of the President, said that it’s been requested that the bloc consider “joint activities, including military exercises of Ukraine and NATO.” These activities, the transcript said, “should include land, naval and air components. In addition, it is advisable to increase the level of combat readiness of troops in NATO countries bordering Ukraine.”
In February, the country’s Ministry of Infrastructure invited warplanes operated by the US-led bloc to fly missions near Crimea, which it claims as part of its sovereign territory. Officials proposed that the skies be “used for NATO air operations in the airspace… which includes airspace over the sovereign territory of Ukraine and over open waters, such as the Black Sea, where the responsibility for air traffic services is delegated to Ukraine by international treaties.” Russia regards the region as its own after it was reabsorbed in 2014.
Moscow has previously described Ukraine’s membership of NATO and the deployment of troops there as a red line for the country. The situation has echoes of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when Soviet weaponry was deployed on the Caribbean island off the Atlantic coast of America, sparking a crisis that led the two superpowers close to nuclear war.