Friday, April 16, 2021

Merkel calls on Putin to withdraw troops

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On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw troops concentrated near the Ukrainian border. The Kremlin is blamed not only by Ukraine but also by NATO member states for another military escalation.

“In order to de-escalate the situation, the Chancellor demanded a reduction of the increased forces.” This is stated in the text version of the telephone conversation between Merkel and Putin published by the German government.

However, Moscow denies the allegations and accuses Ukraine of “provocative action” in the conflict region. Russia says its forces are not a threat, it is defensive in nature and will stay there until Moscow deems it necessary.

Kiev has been sounding the alarm for several days due to the strengthening and active movement of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border. This is mainly happening near the Donbass region, where Russian-backed separatists are operating.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky flew to Donbass on Thursday, where the confrontation between Russian-backed separatists, hybrid forces and the Ukrainian side is gradually escalating. There is growing concern that the clashes could escalate into large-scale military confrontations. Zelensky meets fighting soldiers on the front line.

“The head of state will visit leading positions where the general ceasefire regime has been systematically violated recently and where several Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and wounded as a result of enemy fire,” the Ukrainian presidential administration said in a statement.

There is speculation in Ukraine that Russia is doing this to divert attention from domestic politics. Russia is set to hold parliamentary elections in September, with protests in Moscow and other major cities demanding the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

“This has nothing to do with any of the prisoners,” Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, told Reuters. He said Russia should be cautious when it comes to the fact that “there is an unstable region on the border, such as Ukraine, which has the potential to resume violence.”

Support for Ukraine is growing in the West, as Russian troops mobilize along the country’s border and violence escalates in eastern Ukraine. The mobilization of Russian military units has deepened concerns that the Kremlin in eastern Ukraine may seek to escalate the conflict.

On April 6, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted that he had called on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “express serious concern over the ongoing violations of Russian military action and the ceasefire agreement in and around Ukraine.”

“NATO strongly supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We remain committed to our close partnership, “said the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Last Thursday, Ukraine spoke to Western allies about the ongoing escalation, including US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. “The ongoing military exercises on the border and possible provocations are traditional Russian games,” Zelensky said. He said it all served to create an “atmosphere of intimidation” in Kiev.

The US State Department said it was “absolutely concerned about the recent escalation of Russia’s aggressive and provocative actions in eastern Ukraine.” Political commentators do not rule out that the Kremlin is sending a challenge and testing the new US President Joe Biden, who called Russian President Vladimir Putin a murderer in a TV interview.

Russia said Monday it was in high-level talks with the United States on Ukraine. The Kremlin has denied fears in Kiev that Russia is increasing its military presence along its border and has vowed to respond to Ukraine sanctions. Kiev has imposed sanctions on several Russian companies over the weekend.

“We are in contact with the Americans and this is happening at a high level.” According to the Russian news agency Interfax, Sergei Ryabkov described the current events with these words. He is Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister.

US President Joe Biden spoke by telephone with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday. Biden pledged his unwavering support after not only Ukraine but also the West and NATO expressed concern over the escalation of Russian forces along Ukraine’s borders.

Kiev has frozen the conflict with Russia and Ukrainian Kremlin-backed Ukrainian separatists since 2014. However, last week Ukraine made several statements about ongoing military movements in annexed Crimea and separatist-controlled areas.

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