BRUSSELS, April 23. /ITAR-TASS/. NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow voiced concern about Russia’s “threatening” rhetoric with regard to the alliance.
Vershbow urged Russia to withdraw troops from the border with Ukraine, condemn illegal armed groups in that country and support the implementation of the April 17 Geneva statement on Ukraine.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last week that Russia would have to take measures if NATO moved closer towards its border.
“Despite all programmes of cooperation, development and partnership, NATO cannot stop being a military organisation. One cannot write books with a Kalashnikov assault rifle. lt’s a weapon. And NATO cannot create because it is a military organisation,” he said on the TVC television channel’s “Pravo Znat” (The Right to Know) programme to be aired on April 19.
“If this military organisation comes closer to our border, Russia will have to take measures to ensure its own security,” Peskov said.
He warned that NATO’s further enlargement and “one more step towards the Russian border” would cause “the entire European security architecture to be overhauled”.
Speaking about Ukraine’s possible admission to the alliance, Pskov said that “the military-political future of this country, we hope, will not envision such membership for the time being”.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that “belligerent statements such as those heard at the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels on April 1 do not match demands for a de-escalation. De-escalation should begin with rhetoric. It is time to stop the groundless whipping-up of tension, and to return to serious common work.”
He said Russia was seeking to do its best to help stabilise the situation in Ukraine.
“We are not imposing anything on anyone, we just see that if it is not done, Ukraine will continue to spiral into crisis with unpredictable consequences. We stand ready to join international efforts aimed at achieving these goals. We support the appeal by foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland to implement the 21 February agreement. Their proposal - to hold Russia-EU talks with the participation of Ukraine and other Eastern Partnership states about the consequences of EU association agreements - corresponds to our position,” the minister said in an interview with the Guardian on April 7.
Lavrov told the Russia Today television channel on April 23 that Russian troops were staying on their own territory and were not taking any steps that would go against their obligations.
“We have never denied the fact that we sent additional troops to the border [with Ukraine] just as the Ukrainian government redeployed its troops closer to our border. Our troops are conducting exercises on the territory of our own country. Such exercises are conducted regularly since Sergei Shoigu was appointed defence minister,” Lavrov said.
Exercises are held in different parts of Russia. “As far as I know, the next exercises will be held in the north-west of the country. This is a continuous process. The army must be in good shape and ready to act while hoping that it will not have to interfere,” the minister said.
“However, if we are attacked, we will respond by all means. If our legitimate interests and the interests of Russian people are directly affected, as was the case in South Ossetia, I see no way to respond other than doping so in full compliance with international law. Those who threaten the security of Russian citizens jeopardise the security of the whole country,” Lavrov said.
He stressed the fact that Russian troops were staying on the territory of Russia. “Demands for inspections under the so-called Vienna Document of 2011 and the Treaty on Open Skies were satisfied. Inspectors from the United States, the European Union and Ukraine visited Russian troops’ bases and could not cite even one fact that would signify dangerous military activities on the part of Russia,” the minister said.
“We are on our own territory and are not taking any actions that would go against our obligations,” he said. “Ukrainian troops are also staying on their territory, but the difference is that they have an order allowing them to use weapons against peaceful citizens. This is a criminal order.