The U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry has warned that Russia is using tactics last seen at the height of the Cold War which he said would lead to a return to ‘dangerous’ and ‘unnecessary’ tensions.
Asked on Tuesday during U.S. congressional testimony if Russia was lying when it says it has no troops or equipment in Ukraine, Kerry replied: "Yes."
“Russia is engaged in a rather remarkable period of the most overt propaganda exercise that I’ve seen since the very height of the Cold War,” Kerry said. The Secretary added that Russia’s representatives “lied about their activities there to my face and to the face of others on many different occasions.”
Fighting has abated in eastern Ukraine in recent days, raising hopes that a ceasefire that was due to start on Feb. 15 can finally take effect after the rebels initially ignored it to storm the government-held town of Debaltseve last week.
Western countries have not given up on the ceasefire deal to end fighting that has killed more than 5,600 people, although they remain suspicious of the rebels and their presumed patron, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kiev and its Western allies say the rebels are funded and armed by Moscow and backed by Russian military units.
Moscow denies aiding sympathizers in Ukraine and says heavily armed Russian-speaking troops operating without insignia there are not its men.
The chief U.S. diplomat later elaborated on the need to push back against Russia’s stance it is not involved in the conflict.
“Russia ... tragically is sort of reigniting a new kind of East-West, zero-sum game that we think is dangerous and unnecessary,” Kerry told U.S. lawmakers when testifying about the State Department budget.
“The question asked earlier about ... how they present things and the lies about their presence in Ukraine and the training, I mean, you know, it’s stunning but it has an impact in places where it isn’t countered,” he said. “Propaganda works.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin denies arming rebels in the war in eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile U.S. lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties are urging the Obama administration to arm Ukraine to defend themselves against anti-government rebels backed by Russia.
But it would be a move opposed by many European governments that fear such a move might spark a wider proxy war.
Kerry did not comment on the issue of arming Ukrainian forces, but added that such assistance was still under discussion among members of the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress.
And he said Congress also needed to be willing to provide adequate economic assistance to Ukraine.
(With AP and Reuters)SHOW MORE