Ready for war: Germany warns Russia aiming to ‘provoke’ Ukraine with troops

Russia: Expert discusses tensions with Ukraine

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Over the past few weeks tens of thousands of Russian soldiers have amassed along Ukraine’s eastern border and in Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014. Fighting has also intensified in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Government forces which heavy shelling reported.

Pro-Russian elements declared the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics as independent states in 2014 though they remain unrecognised by any country.

Ukraine and western powers have long alleged regular Russian troops have been assisting the separatists in the fighting.

Speaking to ARD public television Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the German defence minister, accused Russia of “trying everything to provoke a reaction” from Ukraine.

She claimed Moscow is “just waiting for a move, so to speak, from NATO, to have a pretext to continue its actions”.

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer praised Ukraine for its “sober” reaction to the Russian build-up and warned Russia NATO won’t be sucked into its “game”.

The minister added: “If it is a manoeuvre like the Russian side says, there are international procedures through which one can create transparency and trust.”

On Wednesday NATO urged Russia to stop its “unjustified” military build-up around Ukraine.

Jens Stolenberg, NATO’s secretary general, accused Moscow of the “largest massing of Russian troops” since the 2014 invasion of Crimea.

Whilst Ukraine is not a NATO member it is a close ally of the bloc.

The United States has urged Russia to deescalate with President Joe Biden calling Vladimir Putin personally to discuss the situation.

In a statement the White House said: “The president voiced our concerns over the sudden Russian military build-up in occupied Crimea and on Ukraine’s borders, and called on Russia to de-escalate tensions.”

The US is moving warships into the Black Sea despite warning from Russia, which is urging them not to approach Crimea.

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Britain has also called on Russia to end its military build-up with foreign minister Dominic Raab tweeting: “The G7 are deeply concerned by the large, ongoing, build-up of Russian military forces on Ukraine’s borders and illegally-annexed Crimea.

“We call on Russia to end provocations and de-escalate tensions.”

On Tuesday Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu accused NATO of seeking to deploy 40,000 troops along Russia’s border, primarily around the Baltic and Black Sea.

NATO has denied having any plans to boost its forces.

Putin 'planning mass intrusion into Ukraine' says Saakashvili

Russia invaded Crimea in 2014 after pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych was removed during the Euromaidan revolution.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians gathered in Kiev demanding closer relations with Europe and an end to corruption.

Over 100 people were killed in clashes between protesters and security forces before Mr Yanukovych fled to Russia.

The invasion of Crimea was followed by uprising in Russian speaking eastern Ukraine, which Kiev claims Russia helped orchestrate.

More than 13,000 have been killed, and many more forced to leave their homes, since the conflict began.

Over the past couple of years fighting has been largely sporadic, and at a much lower intensity than seen in 2014-15.

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