Russian FM Accuses NATO of 'Escalation for Sake of Escalation' Amid Troop Accumulation Claims
17:35 GMT 18.02.2022 (Updated: 18:33 GMT 18.02.2022)
© Sputnik / Press service of the Russian Foreign MinistryRussian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova during a briefing in Moscow.
© Sputnik / Press service of the Russian Foreign Ministry/
Even though Russia has provided evidence of pulling back some troops from Crimea and Belarus following the completion of drills, the North Atlantic alliance has continued to claim that Russian troop levels near the Ukrainian border are increasing.
The Russian Foreign Ministry accused NATO on Friday of "escalation for the sake of escalation" in the ongoing crisis in Eastern Europe, where the alliance has accused Moscow of planning an invasion of Ukraine.
"The military-political situation in Europe continues to degrade. Russian proposals on security guarantees are aimed at correcting this situation, to which we have not received a clear answer from the alliance," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in a Friday statement.
"We hope that negotiations on them will continue. We will insist on NATO stopping its provocative expansion policy, refusing to deploy strike weapons that threaten us near our borders, and returning the configuration of the alliance's forces to the positions of 1997," she added.
Moscow has denied any intent to invade Ukraine, and the Ukrainian government has likewise said that Russian troops near its borders are insufficient to constitute an invasion threat. Nonetheless, the US government and Western media have continued to claim that such an attack could happen "at any time," and even that Moscow might try and use a "false flag" incident to create a casus belli.
The US State Department levied just such an accusation on Friday, telling Sputnik that it regards news from the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) of explosions and artillery shelling by Ukrainian forces as a "false flag operation."
"Announcements like these are further attempts to obscure through lies and disinformation that Russia is the aggressor in this conflict. This type of false flag operation is exactly what Secretary [Antony] Blinken highlighted in his remarks to the UN Security Council," a State Department spokesperson told Sputnik.
"It is also cynical and cruel to use human beings as pawns to distract the world from the fact that Russia is building up its forces in preparation for an attack. Russia is the sole instigator of these tensions and is threatening the people of Ukraine. It has put its troops on Ukraine's borders, and routinely abuses and violates the rights of the people of Donbas and Crimea," they added.
The DPR and its sister republic, the Lugansk People's Republic (LPR), are breakaway states in the Russophone Donbass region, which declared independence from Kiev in 2014 after a nationalist government came to power and attempted to reduce the status the Russian language as a national language in Ukraine. The eight-year war between them and Kiev has killed at least 14,000 people.
Denis Pushilin, the head of the DPR, announced on Friday that some 700,000 civilians were being evacuated eastward into Russia's Rostov region, warning that "a full-scale offensive can simply begin" at any moment.
Earlier this week, the Russian State Duma passed a resolution calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to recognize the two Donbass republics as independent states, but he has so far declined to do so. Ukraine and NATO have accused Moscow of secretly supporting the rebels, but they have denied any interference in Ukrainian affairs. However, Moscow helped to negotiate the Minsk Protocol peace settlement process with Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).