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NATO accuses Russia of trying to “pretext” to invade Ukraine


Russia has been accused of trying to fabricate a false reason to invade Ukraine.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary general, said the military alliance was concerned “Russia is trying to stage a pretext for an armed attack on Russia”.

Separatist authorities in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been at war with Ukrainian forces since 2014, said there had been an increase in Ukrainian shelling along of the tense line of contact, describing it as a “grand-scale provocation”. Separatist official Rodion Miroshnik said the separatists fought back.

Ukraine disputed this claim, saying the separatists shelled its forces, but did not return fire. Ukraine’s military command said shells hit a kindergarten building in Stanytsia Luhanska, wounding two civilians and knocking out power to half the town.

An observation mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is expected to present its assessment of the situation later Thursday.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, meanwhile, has called “disturbing” reports of mutual accusations of bombings by Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Syria. Ukraine.

Austin said Washington and its allies “are still putting the details together, but we’ve been saying for some time that the Russians might do something like this to justify a military conflict, so we’ll be watching that very closely.”

British Foreign Minister Liz Truss said such reports “constitute a blatant attempt by the Russian government to fabricate pretexts for invasion”, describing it as a “campaign of disinformation”.

His armed forces minister, James Heappey, also accused Moscow of “misinformation” over its claim that it is withdrawing troops for the border and in Crimea.

Russia announced on Tuesday that it had started withdrawing some troops from the border area, saying their mission was over. But NATO called this announcement false.

“We have seen the opposite of some statements. We have seen an increase in troops over the past 48 hours, up to 7,000,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said ahead of a NATO meeting on Thursday.

Moscow has stationed around 150,000 troops along its common border with Ukraine and in neighboring Belarus, where it is officially conducting joint military exercises until Jan. 20. It also deployed several warships to the Black Sea.

Stoltenberg pointed out that Russia had “enough troops, enough capability to launch a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine with very little or no warning time”, adding that “the fact that you put a battle tank on a train and you move it in one direction does not prove a troop withdrawal”.

The Kremlin denies any intention to invade but has demanded assurances that Ukraine and Georgia will never be allowed to join NATO. He also wants some Allied troops and weapons to be withdrawn from several Eastern European countries. He argues that they pose a threat to his own safety.

He also leveled accusations of disinformation against NATO allies.

While the United States and its allies have rejected Moscow’s demands to ban Ukraine from joining, they have offered to start talks with Russia on limiting missile deployments in Europe, restrictions on military exercises and other confidence-building measures.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Moscow of offering to discuss these issues years ago, but the West has only agreed to discuss them now. He said Russia was ready to talk about it now, but only in conjunction with its main security demands.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would send its official response on those issues to the United States and NATO later Thursday and make it public.

euronews Gt

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