Russia using old Putin tactic to justify military presence near the Ukrainian border

Fri, 2 April 2021, 7:23 pm

It’s hard to know precisely what Vladimir Putin is up to but the gathering of 25,000 Russian troops so close to Ukrainian border cannot be ignored.

US Europe Command has escalated its posture to “potential imminent crisis”, the highest level, and USAF surveillance flights have tracked up and down Russia‘s border over the past 48 hours.

President Joe Biden‘s call and statement of solidarity to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday followed similar calls to their counterparts by the US defence secretary and the secretary of state earlier in the week.

NATO ambassadors convened for an emergency session on Thursday and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted that he is “gravely concerned”.

In response, Mr Putin‘s press secretary Dmitry Peskov threatened NATO if it sends help to Ukraine.

“There is no doubt such a scenario would lead to a further increase in tensions close to Russia’s borders. Of course, this would call for additional measures from the Russian side to ensure its security,” he told journalists.

This all sounds ominously familiar – it’s an old Putin tactic to justify military action by claiming Russian interests are at risk.

Moscow continues to deny it ever sent troops into eastern Ukraine despite overwhelming evidence of Russian troops and weapons in the seven-year conflict.

Far from being a frozen conflict, as many assume it is, people continue to be killed including four Ukrainian soldiers during the past week.

In recent months the Kremlin has also rejected calls to revise the Minsk accords and shown no willingness to revise the Normandy Group of French, German, Russian and Ukrainian leaders.

But most worrying of all has been the Kremlin’s strategy of handing out Russian passports to residents of eastern Ukraine.

By making hundreds of thousands of these people Russian citizens, the Russian president is not only reducing the chance of the region returning to Kiev’s control, but he is turning the people into his responsibility.

And so if he can create a situation where “Russians” are “threatened” he has his justification to send troops in.

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