Ukraine said on Tuesday that its joint diplomatic efforts with Western allies have managed to avert a feared Russian invasion.
“We and our allies have managed to prevent Russia from any further escalation. It is already the middle of February, and you see that diplomacy is continuing to work,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters.
Kuleba’s comments came a day after Russia left the door open to more talks with the West to resolve a standoff triggered by Moscow's opposition to NATO’s influence in eastern Europe and Ukraine’s ambition to one day join the alliance.
Russia’s defense ministry said on Tuesday some of the more than 100,000 soldiers stationed near Ukraine’s borders were starting to return to base after completing military drills.
Ukrainian officials have spent weeks questioning US intelligence reports suggesting that Russia was readying an imminent attack on its western neighbor.
But Kuleba stressed that tensions remained high along Ukraine’s frontiers and that Russia still needed to pull back its remaining forces.
“We have a rule: don’t believe what you hear, believe what you see. When we see a withdrawal, we will believe in a de-escalation,” he said
Russia has built up more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine and carried out large-scale exercises. Russia denies planning toinvade, but says it needs the West to take its security worries about NATO seriously.
“We will not invade Ukraine unless we are provoked to do that,” RIA news agency cited Russia’s envoy to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, as saying.
“If the Ukrainians launch an attack against Russia, you shouldn’t be surprised if we counterattack. Or, if they start blatantly killing Russian citizens anywhere –- Donbass or wherever.”
The United States has warned Moscow may stage a “false flag” operation to trigger a war. Moscow has accused the West of hysteria.
With AFP, The Associated Press, and Reuters
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