War fears erupt as Vladimir Putin accused of ‘raising stakes’ on EU’s doorstep

Russia fears: Poland and Ukraine could sparker wider conflict

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Ukraine’s foreign minister warned Russia on Thursday that an attack on his country would incur “political, economic and human losses” and would be too costly. Russia has been building up forces near its border with Ukraine, and Kyiv, the United States and NATO have voiced concerns about a possible Russian attack – a suggestion the Kremlin has dismissed as false.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told a televised briefing: “We are not trying to guess what is in Putin’s head.

“We are working to give him a clear understanding – a new attack on Ukraine will be too costly, so it is better not to do it.”

He said Kyiv’s main goal was to restrain Russia from “further aggressive actions”.

He added: “To do this, Moscow must clearly understand what political, economic and human losses it will incur in the event of a new stage of aggression.”

The head of Ukraine’s military intelligence told the Military Times outlet this weekend that Russia had more than 92,000 troops massed around Ukraine’s borders and was preparing for an attack by the end of January or the beginning of February.

Ukraine, which wants to join the NATO military alliance, received a large consignment of US ammunition and Javelin missiles earlier this year, prompting criticism from Moscow.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian navy received two refitted former US Coast Guard patrol boats as a part of $2.5-billion (£1.9billion) package of assistance to Ukraine, and Kuleba said Ukraine could receive one another of the vessels.

Ukraine’s ties with Russia collapsed in 2014 after Moscow backed separatists who rose up in eastern Ukraine and took control of territory that Kyiv wants back. Kyiv says some 14,000 people have been killed in fighting since then.

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Responding to the accusations, Maria Zakharova, a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said that Russia has not turned its back on ‘Normandy format’ talks with France, Germany and Ukraine about how to implement a peace deal over eastern Ukraine.

The Russian foreign ministry earlier this month took the rare step of publishing a number of diplomatic letters it exchanged with Germany and France to try to show that its diplomatic stance on talks over eastern Ukraine had been misrepresented by Paris and Berlin.

On Wednesday, Russia staged military drills in the Black Sea, south of Ukraine and said it needed to sharpen the combat-readiness of its conventional and nuclear forces because of heightened NATO activity near its borders.

Ukraine also held exercises of its own near the frontier with Belarus.

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An independent Russian investigative group posted photos and videos it said showed movements of tanks and other military vehicles in southern Russia in the past few days.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Reuters it would be “a grave mistake from Russia” to attack Ukraine.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said the European Union must make it clear to Russia that there would be a high price to pay if it acted against Ukraine, urging the EU to quickly agree on how to deter Moscow.

In Wednesday’s exercises in the Black Sea, Russian fighter planes and ships practiced repelling air attacks on naval bases and responding with air strikes, Interfax reported.

Separately, the news agency quoted Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying the need for Russia to further develop its armed forces was dictated by “the complicated military and political conditions in the world and the growing activity of NATO countries near Russia’s borders”.

He said raising the armed forces’ capabilities, supporting the combat preparedness of nuclear forces and strengthening the potential of non-nuclear deterrence are among the priorities.

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