Ukraine: Russia provokes us to conflict in Eastern Ukraine

Russia is trying to challenge Ukraine to escalate the conflict in the eastern Donbass region. Thats what Ukrainian Minister Taran of Defense says. But, he emphasizes, Kiev will respond โ€œin a civilized wayโ€ to the Russian provocations.

Tensions in Eastern Ukraine have been rising again in recent weeks. This year, 26 Ukrainian soldiers have already died in skirmishes with militias from the self-proclaimed Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The parties blame each other for the flared violence.

At the same time, Russia has recently strengthened its military presence in the border area. This week, German Chancellor Merkel urged Russian President Putin to withdraw his troops from the border.

According to the Kremlin, only military exercises are held in the region. It also denies involvement in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. However, last week Moscow warned Ukraine not to use violence in the region, because it could โ€œforce Russia to intervene to protect citizens in the area,โ€ said a Kremlin spokesman.

Do not let blackmail

According to Defense Minister Taran, Russia is pretending to be violating the human rights of the Russian-speaking community in Eastern Ukraine. The aim of this is to stir up the turmoil in the area. For example, the Kremlin would like to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO. The Western military alliance does not allow countries involved in internal conflict.

Taran believes that the Russians, with their military presence, are trying to force Ukrainians to make concessions at the negotiating table, including on the Russian occupation of Crimea. But Ukraine will not let itself be blackmailed, warns the minister.

Press agency Reuters reports, based on a source โ€œclose to the Kremlinโ€, that Russian troops should be seen as merely a display of power. โ€œThey deliberately move the tanks during the day. Thats not how you prepare for war, they only do this to show muscle.โ€

Consultations with Turkey

Later today, Ukraine consults President Zelensky with his Turkish counterpart Erdogan. Although Turkey and Russia are increasingly cooperating in the fields of defence and energy, Turkey has condemned the Russian annexation of Crimea. In Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh, the two countries were (indirectly) opposed to each other, but nevertheless concluded agreements.

Zelensky is committed to joining NATO and called last week, among others, the US, Canada and the United Kingdom to gain access to the Alliances support programme, intended for candidate countries.