Ukraine fears Russian invasion08/09/17Defence
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he fears that Russia could use military manoeuvres next week as a cover for invasion.
Poroshenko said Russia’s Zapad-2017 exercises with Belarus might be “a smokescreen to create new Russian army assault groups to invade Ukrainian territory”.
Russia says 13,000 troops will take part in Zapad, on 14-20 September.
The Kiev government has accused Russia of supplying regular troops and sophisticated heavy weaponry to the rebels. Moscow has denied any direct involvement, while admitting that Russian ‘volunteers’ have been helping the rebels.
Poroshenko said: “There are no signs that Moscow is ready to pull out of Donbas or Crimea.
“But unfortunately there is more and more proof of its preparations for an offensive war on a continental scale.”
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March 2014, prompting international sanctions. Special forces in unmarked camouflage seized key installations, and only later did President Vladimir Putin admit that it was a Russian state operation.
Poroshenko said the Zapad-2017 drill “was the main reason for beefing up security on all stretches of our state border”.
There is speculation that Russia may deploy significantly more troops than the 13,000 its defence ministry has mentioned.
Poroshenko added: “7,000 flatcars with troops and hardware have approached the territory of Ukraine, and unfortunately there are no guarantees that after the drill is over they will all return home from Belarus.”
Russian security troops deployed during the Sochi Olympics in 2014 had gone into Crimea, he said. Further, Russian military units involved in a drill in the Caucasus in 2008 were later involved in the war against Georgia.
He rejected Putin’s call for a peacekeeping mission to be deployed along the line of contact between the Ukrainian army and the separatists.
Instead, he insisted, UN peacekeepers should be deployed across the entire rebel-controlled area, including the border with Russia.