Russia denies ‘desire’ to take more Ukrainian territory

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says taking over more territory in the country ‘contradicts’ Russia’s core interests

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Moscow did not wish to annex more Ukrainian territory but repeated a call for Kiev to grant more powers to regional authorities, RIA news agency reported.

In a response to Western allegations that Russia has placed 40,000 troops near its border with Ukraine, soon after annexing Crimea in March, Lavrov said that occupying Ukranian territory would “contradict” Russia’s goals.

“We cannot have such a desire. It contradicts the core interests of the Russian Federation. We want Ukraine to be whole within its current borders, but whole with full respect for the regions,” state-run RIA quoted Lavrov as saying, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile on Friday, NATO sought to disprove Moscow’s allegations that it had released outdated satellite imagery in an attempt to show Russian forces near Ukraine, releasing before-and-after photos, the U.S.-based newspaper the Wall Street Journal reported.

Highly ready

The images, NATO says, make clear that there has been a recent concentration of troops near Ukrainian borders.

On Thursday, senior NATO military officers described Russian troops deployed in over 100 temporary bases as being in “a high state of readiness,” the newspaper added.

Russia denies any substantial build-up on the Ukrainian border but says it has the right to protect ethnic Russians and Russian speakers who are dominant in regions of eastern Ukraine.

NATO and the United States have accused Russia of stirring separatist unrest in cities in eastern Ukraine where pro-Moscow protesters have taken over public administration buildings and demanded more autonomy from Kiev.

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