(Kiev) US President Joe Biden on Friday promised his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to support Ukraine’s sovereignty over Russia, accused of massing its troops on the border with that country.
“President Biden affirmed the unwavering support of the United States for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression in Donbass and Crimea”, during a telephone exchange with M. Zelensky, according to the White House report.
For his part, the Ukrainian leader praised the “crucial partnership” with Washington, at the end of this discussion.
Ukrainian and American officials have expressed concern in recent days over the arrival of thousands of Russian troops and equipment at the Russian-Ukrainian border, amid renewed incidents between Kiev forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Russia. Ukraine.
These tensions test the start of Joe Biden’s presidency, at a time when Russian-American relations are at an all-time low, with Moscow having recently recalled its ambassador to Washington.
Thursday evening, while Kiev was openly worried about these troop movements, Washington has already warned Moscow against “any aggressive act”.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov replied on Friday that Moscow would take “all necessary measures” in the event of Western military interference in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic considered by Russia to be part of its sphere of influence. .
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov
He then repeated that “Russia did not threaten anyone and has never threatened anyone”, blaming the worsening of the situation on “repeated provocations by the Ukrainian armed forces” against the separatists.
At the same time, the Russian army announced on Friday military maneuvers intended to simulate defense in the face of a drone attack in a region near Ukraine.
Earlier, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Roudenko assured that Moscow did not want an armed conflict with Kiev but called on Ukraine to “exercise caution” and “refrain from measures which would cause a conflict ”.
The Kremlin had already said Thursday that Russia moved its troops as it saw fit on its territory, while urging Kiev and the West not to “worry”.
Ukraine claims that Moscow is preparing the entry of its regular armed forces into separatist territories.
France, which has a mediating role with Germany in the Ukrainian conflict, said for its part on Friday that it did not believe in an escalation of tensions while remaining “very cautious”.
British foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Twitter that he spoke by phone Friday with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kouleba.
“We are gravely concerned about the Russian military activities which threaten Ukraine”, he blurted out.
Russian troop movements and the threat of escalation are intended to “serve as an instrument of diplomatic negotiation with the West” in this period of tensions and sanctions, Russian military analyst Alexandre Golts told AFP. .
Sign for him that it is a bluff: the Russian forces in question, a few thousand men according to the Ukrainian media, would not be sufficient for a real offensive. Above all, the rainy weather in Ukraine at this time of year makes it difficult to move military equipment.
These activities aim “at 90% to scare the Ukrainians”, told AFP Steven Pifer, of the Robert Bosch academy in Berlin, adding: “I do not see any sense for the Russians to conquer more territories” .
Despite its denials, Russia is widely seen as the financial and military support of the separatists and accused by Kiev of having had its regular troops fight during the conflict.
The war, which claimed more than 13,000 lives, began in 2014 after pro-Westerners came to power in Kiev, which was followed by Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.
After a record truce in the second half of 2020, the war in eastern Ukraine between Kiev forces and separatists has seen an increase in clashes since January. Both sides blame each other for the escalation.
Despite peace agreements signed in 2015 in Minsk and several meetings between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents under German and French sponsorship, the political settlement of the conflict has stalled.