Any escalation in conflict between Russian-backed separatists who seized territory in eastern Ukraine from the Russian-backed in 2014 could increase tensions between Russia-West.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin could prolong the crisis for months.
“There is currently no evidence the Russians are withdrawing from border regions near Ukraine,” Truss wrote in London Telegraph newspaper.
“We must have no illusions that Russia could drag this out much longer in a brazen ploy to spend weeks more – if not months – subverting Ukraine and challenging Western unity,” Truss said.
The assertions about shelling were made in a statement issued by representatives of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic.
It stated that Ukrainian forces used mortars, machine guns and grenade launchesers in four separate incidents Thursday.
“Armed forces of Ukraine have crudely violated the ceasefire regime, using heavy weapons, which, according to the Minsk agreements, should be withdrawn,” the statement claimed.
The Ukrainian Defence Ministry was not available for comment.
Ukrainian news service Interfax reports that officials in the eastern city of Kharkiv near the Russian border have urged residents “not to spread panic, rumours and Russian propaganda, not to succumb to information and psychological attacks and not to play the aggressor. Our peace helps the government, diplomats and security forces to do their job to protect the state and Ukrainians.”
A government source confirmed that Fumio Kishida, the Japanese Prime Minister, was scheduled to meet with Putin on Thursday night. However, arrangements had been made for the talks and a time has not been determined.
Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Yamaka said Japan is committed to a peaceful resolution through dialogue. However, if Russia invades Japan, it may take sanctions against Russia.
On Wednesday (AEDT), Kishida spoke to Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian President. He stated that Japan is ready to provide emergency loans of at least $US100million ($139 million).
Russia claimed this week that it would be withdrawing troops from Ukraine’s border areas after concluding planned drills. But Kyiv stated it had not seen any evidence and the US suggested it believed Moscow had increased its presence by up to 7000 troops.
Around 20 Russian warships started drills in the Caspian Sea on Thursday, Russia’s defence ministry said, part of broader war games involving most of its army and navy.
Russia’s lower house of parliament voted on Tuesday to ask Putin to recognise the two self-proclaimed separatist republics in eastern Ukraine as independent.
Putin has not yet indicated that he has any plans to do so, according to the Kremlin.
Britain’s Defence Minister said on Thursday that Ukraine was on a pathway towards NATO membership and that London had made it clear to the Kremlin that the alliance’s policy of welcoming new members will not change.
“We remain an open-door organisation,” Ben Wallace told reporters at NATO headquarters. “I’ve made it very clear to the Kremlin that countries choose NATO – NATO doesn’t go around choosing the countries.”
Wallace also said NATO was right to respond to what he said were 150,000 Russian troops massed on Russia’s borders near Ukraine. “This is a real challenge to the stability of Europe.”
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