MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The deputy defense minister also expressed hope that Germany and France will use their influence to prevent Kiev from escalating the situation in southeastern Ukraine, adding that Russia will help Europe in its efforts.
"We will not wage war against Ukraine under any circumstances. Ukraine is not our enemy! I cannot even theoretically imagine it. I think that Kiev will also be smart enough not to provoke us."
Antonov underlined that despite Western claims to the opposite, Russia has never sent troops to Ukraine.
The deputy defense minister explained that the 70 Russian officers who have been working for the Joint Control and Command Center (JCCC) in southeastern Ukraine since September, 2014, were deployed in the country at the request of Kiev authorities, who wanted the Russian officers to act as mediators between representatives of Ukraine's Armed Forces and those of the self-proclaimed people's republics of Donetsk and Luhansk (DPR and LPR) at the JCCC.
The JCCC has been cooperating with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), tasked with monitoring the situation in Ukraine's troubled southeast.
Russia has repeatedly denied the claims, which have not been supported with any factual evidence, and has called for an end of violence in Ukraine, having participated in crucial Minsk negotiations on the Ukrainian conflict that have led to the signing of a ceasefire agreement between Kiev and the self-proclaimed republics in February.
Meanwhile the US Congress has been pressuring US President Barack Obama to provide lethal military aid to Kiev. In December, 2014, Obama signed the Freedom Support Act, which gives him the authority to send lethal arms to Ukraine.
According to Antonov, Russia considers US intentions to supply lethal aid to Kiev a mistake, because it violates the Minsk peace agreements and could undermine the joint Russia-EU efforts aimed resolving the conflict in southeastern Ukraine through peaceful, diplomatic means.