Russia Says Has “No Intention” of Further Ukraine Incursion
Moscow – Russia said on Saturday it had “no intention” of invading eastern Ukraine, responding to Western warnings over a military buildup on the border following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking on Russian television, reinforced a message from President Vladimir Putin that Russia would settle – at least for now – for control over Crimea despite massing thousands of troops near Ukraine’s eastern border. “We have absolutely no intention of – or interest in – crossing Ukraine’s borders,” Lavrov said.
But he added that Russia was ready to protect the rights of Russian speakers, referring to what Moscow sees as threats to the lives of compatriots in eastern Ukraine since Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich was deposed as president in February. The West imposed sanctions on Russia, including visa bans for some of Putin’s inner circle, after Moscow annexed Crimea this month following a referendum on union of the Russian-majority region with the Russian Federation which the West said was illegal.
The West has threatened tougher sanctions targeting Russia’s stuttering economy if Moscow sends more troops to Ukraine. U.S. officials said as many as 40,000 may be massed near the border. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in an interview with Germany’s Focus magazine, said the alliance was “extremely worried”.
“We view it as a concrete threat to Ukraine and see the potential for further interventions,” said Rasmussen, who is due to leave the post in October. “I fear that it is not yet enough for him (Putin). I am worried that we are not dealing with rational thinking as much as with emotions, the yearning to rebuild Russia’s old sphere of influence in its immediate neighborhood.” (Reuters)