02:41 GMT18 May 2021
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    The security situation in eastern Ukraine has deteriorated considerably in recent weeks, with officials from the breakaway Donbass republics accusing Kiev of preparing a new military offensive. Moscow has urged both sides to stick to the Minsk ceasefire. Washington has threatened Russia with "consequences" if it acts "aggressively" toward Ukraine.

    Moscow will hold authorities in Kiev and their Western backers responsible for any worsening of the security situation in Ukraine, and believes the United States and NATO are deliberately destabilizing the situation with its weapons deliveries, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has said.

    "The deliveries were made, they continue to be made, the volume of such assistance is increasing. The United States and other NATO countries are deliberately turning Ukraine into a powder keg," Ryabkov said, speaking to reporters on Tuesday.

    The senior diplomat accused Washington in particular of warming up militarist sentiments in Kiev, and engaging in provocations near Russia's border. He warned that Russia would do everything required to ensure its security in the event of an escalation in Ukraine.

    "If there is any sort of escalation, we will of course do everything to ensure our security and the security of our citizens, wherever they happen to be," Ryabkov said. "But the responsibility for the consequences of such an escalation will lay entirely at the feet of Kiev and its Western curators," he added.

    The diplomat also suggested that instead of disingenuously continuing to talk about their concerns about Ukraine's 'independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity,' the US and NATO should instead be worried about how to lower the current tensions, and to ensure that Kiev implements the package of measures agreed in Minsk in 2015 aimed at restoring peace and security.

    Ryabkov also followed up on  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's remarks Monday warning Turkey and other countries not to 'feed' Kiev's "militaristic sentiments," including via the provision of advanced weaponry, and said that Moscow was discussing this question with Ankara. He added that reports of the delivery of Turkish drones to the Donbass cannot but be concerning to the Russian side.

    "We have normal, multifaceted relations with Turkey. They are not easy...All issues are discussed in a working manner. The export of Turkish products, their delivery to various countries, is a serious question. They buy something from us, export something of their own elsewhere. There are corresponding regimes, including export-controls, where this is discussed. We are considering the whole complex of such topics on a bilateral basis and will continue to do so. Of course, there is little to be happy about from the fact that these Turkish drones are said to be appearing in the Donbass," the diplomat said.

    Escalation of Tensions in Eastern Ukraine

    The war in eastern Ukraine has been frozen since February 2015 and the signing of the Minsk peace deal. The agreement stipulated the return of the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk regions to Kiev's control through the granting of autonomy status to the territories, as well as the withdrawal of heavy military equipment from the line of contact. While Kiev and the breakaways' authorities did generally live up to the ceasefire, Ukrainian lawmakers refused to legislate the eastern regions' autonomous status into law, hence preventing the Minsk agreements from being fully implemented.

    In recent weeks, Donetsk and Lugansk region authorities and militia forces have reported an escalation of shelling attacks, bombings and sniper fire by Ukrainian forces, and expressed fears that Kiev may be preparing for a major offensive to try to take back control of the territories by force. Washington, meanwhile, has accused Moscow of escalating the tensions, and has repeatedly threatened to respond to Russia's "aggression." Russian officials have urged Kiev to stick to the Minsk deal, and warned that Moscow would defend itself if threatened.

    The civil war in eastern Ukraine began in May 2014, several months after the victory of the US and European-sponsored coup d'etat in Kiev, which overthrew an unpopular but democratically elected government. Residents of eastern Ukraine's coal and industry-rich area, known as the Donbass, refused to submit to the new authorities, forming institutions for independent governance and militia forces to ensure security, prompting Kiev to launch a military operation. The war in Donbass killed as many as 31,000 people, displaced over 2.3 million more and helped to sink relations between Ukraine and Russia to historic lows. The US, meanwhile, gained a loyal client state and new opportunities to station troops even closer to Russia's western borders.

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