Russia fears: Poland and Ukraine could sparker wider conflict
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Jen Stoltenberg said that the alliance had to be “realistic” about Russian threats. US intelligence officials said last week that Vladimir Putin could be plotting a repeat of the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
It comes as migrants continue to build on the Belarusian border with EU nations in a crisis some European leaders have said is being engineered by the Russian President.
In reference to military manoeuvres in western Russia, Mr Stoltenberg said: “In recent weeks, we have seen an unusual concentration of troops, and we know that Russia has been willing to use these types of military capability before to conduct aggressive actions against Ukraine.”
“NATO remains vigilant. We are monitoring the situation very closely, and we continue to consult amongst our allies and partners such as Ukraine and the European Union.
“Any further provocation or aggressive actions by Russia would be of serious concern.”
Following a meeting with the NATO chief, Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia’s “sophisticated military infrastructure” was “ready to be used” against his nation.
According to satellite photos, tens of thousands of Russian troops have been amassing near the Ukrainian border in recent weeks.
High-tech military equipment has also been deployed in the area near the Donbass region – an area of Ukraine containing armed separatists.
Mr Stoltenberg continued: “We call on Russia to be transparent about its military activities. It is important to prevent escalations and reduce tensions.
“NATO stands with Ukraine.
“We do not, and will not, accept Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, and we call on Russia to end its support for militants in the Donbas.
“All NATO Allies are united in their condemnation of Russia’s behaviour.”
According to the Telegraph, Russia dismissed the fears of an invasion as “alarmist”, accusing NATO of stoking tensions.
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Meanwhile, the EU has accused Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko of causing a migrant crisis at the border with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, following sanctions against his regime.
Since October last year, the EU has imposed restrictive measures against Belarus.
It did so because it failed to recognise the outcome of the 2020 presidential elections in Belarus, which included intimidation and violent repression of peaceful protests against the leader.
The EU believes the elections – which saw Mr Lukashenko restored to power for a sixth time – were “neither free, nor fair.”
Mr Lukashenko reacted angrily to the sanctions, and the migrant situation is seen as a retaliation for the censure.
The European dictator previously threatened to open borders for drugs and migrants earlier this year.
Speaking in July, he said: “We will not hold anyone back. We are not their final destination after all.
“They are headed to enlightened, warm, cozy, Europe.”
Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki described the situation between his country and Belarus as “a new type of war in which people are used as human shields”.
He attributed blame for the crisis to Russian president Vladimir Putin, who he believed was “masterminding” it.
Last Friday, NATO said it “strongly condemns” the country’s use of “irregular migration” as a tool to destabilise the EU.
Speaking to Politico, Mr Kuleba said the military build-up near Ukraine and the migrant crisis on the Belarusian border as separate, but part of a coordinated Russian “strategy to shatter Europe”.
He added: “We should see everything that is happening east of the EU border and inside of the EU as part of a general effort.”
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