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Russian diplomat says US airborne troops being redeployed to Ukraine

March 05, 2015, 13:59 UTC+3
Moscow says US-Ukrainian military drills in the western Ukrainian Lviv region threaten Russia's security
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Members of the U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade

Members of the U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade

© AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis

MOSCOW, March 5. /TASS/. The planned US-Ukrainian military drills in the western Ukrainian Lviv region threaten Russia's security, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Thursday.

A tender posted Wednesday on the US government website says US troops plan to hold joint exercises with Ukraine’s military personnel between March 5 and October 31 at the International peacekeeping and security centre (IPSC) in Yavorov, in western Ukraine’s Lviv region.

Up to 300 troops of the US 173rd Airborne Brigade, which is based in Italy, are being sent to the Yavorov firing range in the western Ukraine’s Lviv region, the diplomat said. These servicemen will train Ukraine’s troops "on how to use the overseas military equipment," he said.

"Therefore the US military are already in Ukraine. It is evident that they are not trying to bring peace to the country," Lukashevich said.

The diplomat stressed that the Kiev authorities and all the Ukrainian people should think about the possible consequences of such steps.

"It is impossible to extinguish the fire of a civil war by weapons. This can be done only through a political dialogue between the warring parties," Lukashevich said.

The diplomat also warned Washington that the Russia-US bilateral relations could be significantly damaged if "the citizens of Donbass start being killed with the use of the US weapons.".

In August 2014, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the US intended to allocate $19 million to provide training and equipment for Ukraine’s National Guard forces, which include the members of the Right Sector extremist group.

Last year, the US Congress prepared the Ukraine Freedom Support Act aimed at imposing sanctions against Russia and supplying weapons to Kiev. In mid-December, US President Barack Obama signed this document, but mentioned that the US administration would not yet take advantage of the new legislation.

NATO ships in Black Sea worrisome signal

Lukashevich also addressed the issue of NATO warships in the Black Sea. The spokesman said it's a worrisome signal and provocation that NATO ships have entered the Black Sea.

"Talking about the ships that entered [the Black Sea], I would call it a very worrisome signal, a provocative idea which does not add up to stability and confidence that the pace process in Ukraine will be stepped up," Lukashevich said. "Any military presence in the proximity of a regional conflict is always a very dangerous maneuver which can lead to different unpleasant consequences," the diplomat stressed.

This is not the first precedent with foreign ships entering the Black Sea, he added. "We hope that US military commanders understand that the presence of US military ships [in the Black Sea] will not facilitate the political settlement of the Ukrainian conflict," Lukashevich noted. "I would even say that it contradicts public statements of the [US President Barack Obama’s] Administration in favor of an exclusively political settlement of the conflict in Ukraine, which administration’s representatives repeatedly confirmed while they actively supported the Minsk agreements from February 12," he said. "[US] military commanders should understand that such provocative actions may lead to the most serious consequences for the settlement of this [Ukrainian] conflict," Lukashevich added.

NATO press service earlier reported that a group of ships entered the Black Sea to conduct joint exercise with fleets of Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey. Six ships will participate in the drills, including flagship US cruiser guided missile, the USS Vicksburg, Turkey’s TCG Turgutreis, Italian frigate ITS Aliseo, Canada’s HMCS Fredericton and ROS Regina Maria of Romania, along with FGS Spessart of Germany.

US weapons supplies to Ukraine threaten Russia’s security

Lukashevich stressed that the US plans for weapons supplies to Kiev pose a threat to Russia’s security.

"The reports of the US plans to begin massive weapons supplies to Ukraine arouse the most serious concerns at the Russian Foreign Ministry," the diplomat said.

This comes amid "the successful compliance with the agreements on the ceasefire in Donbas" reached as the result of the February 12 agreements in Minsk at the Normandy Four leaders’ summit.

"The weapons supplies could not only lead to undermining the truce and also to a new escalation in the southeast, but also threaten the security of Russia, as we have stated many times," Lukashevich said.

Russia’s territory has been shelled many times from the Ukrainian side, he reminded.

The US Congress is even considering a special bill on providing Ukraine with $1 billion for equipping and training forces, the diplomat said.

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