Russia threatening Ukraine with destruction says Kyiv

Ukraine’s foreign minister accused Russia of threatening Ukraine with destruction as Western countries raise the alarm over an escalation of the separatist conflict on Thursday.

Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said during a press conference that Russian pundits and officials are “openly threatening Ukraine with war and the destruction of Ukrainian statehood.”

“We condemn Russia’s aggravation of the security situation, Moscow’s actions and statements aimed at escalating military tensions and undermining diplomatic efforts to resolve the Russian-Ukrainian conflict,” Kuleba said.

Kiev has been fighting pro-Russian separatists in two breakaway regions in the east of the country since 2014 when Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.

Ukraine this week accused Russia of massing thousands of military personnel on its northern and eastern borders and a recent increase in fighting has upended a ceasefire agreement last year that had brought relative calm to the conflict.

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of sending troops and arms to prop up the separatists — claims that Moscow denies.

Kuleba also warned Moscow against initiating any incursion into Ukraine, stating any intensification of the escalation in the Donbas region, of which Donetsk and Lugansk are a part, would have “very painful” consequences for Russia.

“The red line of Ukraine is the state border. If Russia crosses the red line, then it will have to suffer,” he said. “The world is on the side of Ukraine and international law.”

On Wednesday, NATO members Germany and the United States urged Moscow to reverse course and de-escalate the situation in the region.

A day earlier, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged Russia to end its “unjustified” military buildup.

While Kyiv has welcomed the shows of Western support, they fall short of Ukraine’s desire for full NATO membership – which Moscow opposes.