Ukraine’s Defence Minister Slams Foreign Media for Whipping Up ‘Russian Invasion’ Fears
17:13 GMT 25.01.2022 (Updated: 18:32 GMT 25.01.2022)
© REUTERS / UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCESService members of the 92nd Separate Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces take part in military drills at a shooting range in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released December 20, 2021. Press Service of the 92nd Separate Mechanized Brigade/Handout via REUTERS
© REUTERS / UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES
Western officials and media have spent months claiming that Russian troops stationed near Ukraine are making preparations for an "imminent" invasion. Moscow has vocally denied these allegations and accused NATO of artificially inflating tensions to justify beefing up its presence in Eastern Europe and slapping Russia with new sanctions.
Kiev does not see any imminent danger of a Russian incursion, and foreign media are to blame for blowing up tensions, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov has said.
“We are assessing the situation at a distance of 200 km from the border. They [the Russians] are constantly pulling up and then withdrawing troops, conducting exercises. I can say with absolute certainty that as of today, the Russian armed forces have not created a strike group that could carry out an invasion,” Reznikov said.
“There are no grounds to think that an invasion will happen tomorrow from a military point of view,” he added.
Reznikov blames US and global outlets for whipping up tensions, referring to news headlines about Russian invasion plans as being “clickable.” “Panic and fear is the most clickable,” he complained.
The defence minister also expressed readiness to meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, if such a possibility presents itself within the framework of negotiations in Brussels or Munich involving Russia, Ukraine, and its partners from the US and the UK.
In a separate interview with Ukraine’s ICTV on Monday, Reznikov called on ordinary Ukrainians and media in particular not to give in to war panic, saying there was no evidence to justify war fears. “I don’t rate such a scenario very highly. Our armed forces, our command and general staff have all the options worked out and know how to act. Right now, our intelligence and the intelligence of partner nations shows that no strike force has been created by the Russian Federation to indicate an offensive tomorrow. There is no such threat. Therefore, I ask you not to sow panic,” he said.
25 January 2022, 12:28 GMT
The minister went on to claim that Russia’s “war against Ukraine” actually began in 2014 with the “occupation” of Crimea. The peninsula broke off from Ukraine in March 2014 after a pro-Western coup in Kiev overthrew the country’s elected government. Amid a voter turnout of 83 percent, over 96 percent of Crimea’s residents voted in favour of rejoining Russia.
Reznikov is the latest Ukrainian official to call for calm amid growing tensions with Russia. On Monday, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal called on citizens to keep cool amid “unfounded” media-inspired fearmongering so as not to create additional pressure on the economy.
Separately, Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defence Council, an advisory body to the Ukrainian president, asked reporters to avoid creating Russia-related fake news.
“I would like to note that a lot of informational events have been taking place in our country lately. A lot of military fiction has appeared in the media. I would ask you, friends, to reduce the tension that exists today. The current situation is completely clear to us, today there is no reason for us to panic. I would really like to ask everyone to stay calm,” he said on Monday.
Danilov went on to criticise Kiev Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko over plans to organise territorial defence forces for “resistance to the aggressor” in cities across the country. Defence of the country was the job of the military, the National Security and Defence Council chief said.
25 January 2022, 15:37 GMT
President Volodymyr Zelensky, appears not to have received Danilov’s memos, warning repeatedly in recent days that a Russian incursion into Ukraine might begin with the border city of Kharkiv, and stressing that Russia could “never” occupy the city because it is filled with “our cool people.”
Western officials and media have spent months claiming that Russia is gearing up to invade Ukraine, with some NATO nations sending troops and military equipment and ordering diplomats and/or members of their families to leave the country while threatening Moscow with ‘never before seen’ sanctions. Moscow has slammed the US and its allies over the ‘invasion’ claims, accusing them of artificially pumping up hysteria as a pretext for expanding NATO’s presence in countries that ring Russia’s western frontiers, and of attempting to speed up the incorporation of Ukraine into the Western bloc.
25 January 2022, 17:01 GMT