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Ukraine Pulling Armed Forces to Conflict Zone in Donbass, Moscow Warns

© AP PhotoFILE - In this April 12, 2021, file photo, Ukrainian soldier watches through a periscope at fighting positions near Donetsk, Ukraine
FILE - In this April 12, 2021, file photo, Ukrainian soldier watches through a periscope at fighting positions near Donetsk, Ukraine - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.12.2021
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Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Kiev's provocative steps to deliberately aggravate the situation in Donbass were a matter of concern.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Ukraine is pulling its armed forces into the conflict zone in Donbass and that half of the troops are already there.
"Ukrainian Armed Forces are building up their military strength, pulling together heavy equipment, personnel. According to some reports, the number of Ukrainian troops in the conflict zone already numbers 125,000, and this, if anyone does not know, is half of the entire composition of the Armed Forces," Zakharova said at a briefing on Wednesday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that NATO was trying to drag Ukraine into its orbit and turn it into an 'anti-Russia'.

“Unfortunately, the situation is seriously complicated by the openly destructive line of the NATO states, which are trying to draw Ukraine into their orbit, to turn it, in the president’s words, into ‘anti-Russia’. The supply of lethal weapons to Kiev is expanding, and provocative manoeuvres involving the United States on land, in the air and at sea near our borders are multiplying. At the same time, they are trying to dictate to us how the Russian Armed Forces should behave on our own territory," Lavrov said, speaking at the Federation Council.

Russia will continue to react firmly to any unfriendly steps of NATO, the minister added.
The NATO chief's remarks about moving nuclear weapons to Eastern Europe were reckless and aimed at conflict, Lavrov said. Commenting on Lukashenko's statement on the possibility of hosting Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus, Lavrov said it should be taken as a very serious warning to the West.
In turn, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytry Kuleba took part in a meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of the foreign ministers of NATO member states and urged them to increase sanctions pressure on Russia.
"We will call on the allies to join Ukraine in putting together a deterrence package," Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.
As part of this package, NATO should prepare economic sanctions to be imposed on Russia if it "decides to choose the worst-case scenario", he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the Donbass conflict cannot be resolved without direct Kiev-Moscow dialogue.
"I am not afraid of direct dialogue with them [Russia]. We are not afraid of direct dialogue. We know which of the European countries support Ukraine, it is true, and we are grateful to them. We know which of the European countries pretends to support Ukraine and our independence," Zelenskyy told lawmakers, adding that it is impossible to stop the war "without direct negotiations with Russia."
In 2014, Ukraine initiated a military operation against the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, known together as Donbass, after they unilaterally proclaimed independence following the change of government in Kiev, which they considered a coup. The Ukrainian government has blamed the crisis on the east on Russia, but Moscow has denied any involvement in the internal Ukrainian conflict.

A Normandy format of negotiations involving Russia, France, Germany, and Ukraine was set up in June 2014 to settle the conflict in southeastern Ukraine. The Minsk Agreements, adopted by the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine in February 2015, set out a framework for the political resolution of the conflict.
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