Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine over the past 24 hours, Ukraine’s military said on Tuesday (April 6), as fears rise of an escalation in the long-simmering conflict in the country’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
Kyiv last week accused Russia of massing thousands of military personnel on its northern and eastern borders as well as on the Crimean peninsula.
The Kremlin on Monday denied that its military movements near its shared border with Ukraine posed a threat to Kyiv and that Moscow moved troops around its country as it saw fit. It also warned that it would respond to new Ukrainian sanctions against Russian companies.
NATO has said it is concerned about a Russian military build-up in the Donbass region, where Ukrainian troops have battled Russian-backed separatist forces in a conflict Kyiv estimates has killed 14,000 people since 2014.
“NATO will continue to support the sovereignty and territorial Integrity of Ukraine. We remain vigilant and continue to monitor the situation very closely,” a NATO spokesman told German newspaper, Die Welt.
The “destabilizing actions on the part of Russia” undermined efforts to de-escalate tensions under the OSCE-brokered July 2020 ceasefire agreement, the NATO spokesman said.
Moscow and Kyiv have long accused each other of failing to implement a peace deal over the region.
“There is increased activity on the perimeter of Russia’s borders by NATO, other alliances, individual countries – it all obliges us to be vigilant,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
On Monday, US Department of State said it finds reports of Russian military movements on Ukraine’s border “credible” and urged Russia “to refrain from action that could led to an escalation.”
According to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov , an ever more provocative and defiant behavior of Kiev and its Western benefactors led by the US is observed.
Ukraine’s pro-Western leadership closely cooperates with NATO and in 2019, the ex-Soviet country adopted constitutional changes spelling out its aspirations to join the military alliance as well as the European Union.
Ukraine president urged NATO to speed up country’s membership plan and said signal needs to be sent to Russia, AFP reported on Tuesday.
Kiev will only aggravate the domestic Ukrainian crisis by its decision to join NATO, Peskov told reporters Tuesday. “We deeply doubt that it will somehow help Ukraine to deal with its internal problem” TASS quoted the Kremlin spokesman as saying.
With reporting by Reuters, DW, Tass, AFP