All NATO Exercises in Ukraine are Anti-Russian, Diplomat Says
06:25 GMT 24.12.2021 (Updated: 06:53 GMT 24.12.2021)
© REUTERS / UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCESFILE PHOTO: Service members of the 92nd Separate Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces hold artillery drills at a shooting range in an unknown location in eastern Ukraine, in this handout picture released December 17, 2021
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the policy to draw Ukraine into NATO and deploy missiles near Russia's borders provokes serious military risks, up to a large-scale conflict in Europe.
All military exercises conducted by NATO in Ukraine are anti-Russian, Aleksey Polishchuk, the head of the Russian foreign ministry's second CIS department, said.
In 2021, seven joint exercises of Kiev and the alliance countries took place on the territory of Ukraine, while in 2022 there will be nine more drills, the diplomat said.
"The scale, territorial coverage and duration of joint exercises between Ukraine and NATO countries are growing ... All exercises are linked by a single concept and have an anti-Russian orientation," Polishchuk said.
There currently are about 10,000 military personnel of NATO countries stationed at military facilities and naval bases in Ukraine, of which 4,000 are from the United States.
"Western instructors train the Ukrainian military, teach how to conduct offensive operations, including in urban areas. This directly violates the Minsk Agreements of 2015, according to which, on the contrary, all foreign armed formations, military equipment and mercenaries must be withdrawn from the country. This line of Western countries negatively affects the settlement of the conflict in Donbas," the official said.
Tensions around Ukraine have been aggravated in the past several weeks by an alleged Russian troop buildup near the Ukrainian border and claims of preparations for an invasion. Moscow has repeatedly denied those accusations, pointing to NATO's military activity near Russian borders, which it deems a threat to its national security. Russia has also said it has the right to move forces within its own sovereign territory as it sees fit.
Ukraine has been aspiring to join NATO since the 2008 Bucharest summit when the alliance agreed that both Ukraine and Georgia would one day become its members, however neither country has entered the formal process for membership yet.