Ukrainian separatists accuse Kiev of escalating tensions

Ukraine – AFP

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine accused Kiev on Wednesday of escalating regional tensions to win the West’s support, dismissing theories of a Russian invasion as “lies”.
With tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border, tension between Moscow and the West is at its highest level since the Cold War, and there are growing fears of a major conflict in Eastern Europe. Moscow maintains that it does not intend to invade Ukraine, but is demanding broad security guarantees in exchange for de-escalation.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on Friday in Geneva for crucial talks.
Natalia Nikonorova, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, said that Ukraine has a great interest in maintaining this precarious situation, because it attracts the attention of Western partners, and earns it political weight and financial support.
It added that the tensions “distract the Ukrainian people” from the country’s economic and social problems.
The conflict erupted in the pro-Russian Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine, following Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014.
The two sides accuse each other of violating the Minsk peace agreement in eastern Ukraine, signed in 2015.
Since the start of the conflict, which left 13,000 people dead, the West has accused Russia of providing military and financial aid to the separatists, accusations that Moscow denies. Representatives of the Donetsk industrial region said on Wednesday that the hypotheses of the Russian attack on Ukraine were “built on lies”, as well as Russia’s alleged participation in the ongoing conflict.
However, Nikonorova did not rule out the possibility of the separatists requesting military assistance from Moscow if necessary. She added: We are ready to resort to all possibilities to protect the lives of our citizens.
She said it was not expected that Kiev would try to retake the separatist-held territories by force, following the Ukrainian government ruled out such an operation. Without the West’s involvement and encouragement, we believe that it is unlikely that Ukraine would carry out military operations on a large scale.

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