Moscow, Jan 20: Russia has warned that if the West provides Ukraine with longer-range missiles, the war will escalate, almost a year into the Russian military operation in the ex-Soviet republic.
At a press call on Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, "Potentially, this is extremely dangerous, it will mean bringing the conflict to a whole new level, which, of course, will not bode well from the point of view of global and pan-European security."
Peskov's warning came on the eve of a donor meeting of Ukraine's allies chaired by the United States at the US airbase in Ramstein, Germany, for a new round of talks on supplying Ukraine with more powerful weapons.
Russia started its "special military operation" in Ukraine with the declared aim of "de-Nazifying" the country on February 24, 2022. Since then, the US and Europe have imposed waves of unprecedented economic sanctions on Moscow and have given Ukraine tens of billions of dollars' worth of weaponry, including rocket systems, drones, armored vehicles and communications systems. The Kremlin has time and again warned the sanctions and the Western military assistance will only prolong the war.
On Wednesday, Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said the US is encouraging Ukraine to commit terrorist acts against Russia, as Washington signaled it was okay with Kiev hitting Russian-controlled Crimea with Western weapons. The Russian envoy was reacting to comments by US State Department spokesman Ned Price, who said a few hours earlier that it was up to Kiev to decide whether to use Western weapons against Russian forces in Crimea, which was Ukrainian territory before joining Russia.
"It should become obvious to everyone: no matter what weapons the Americans or NATO supply to the Zelensky regime, we will destroy it," Antonov said at the time, referring to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. "It is simply impossible to defeat Russia," he added.
Crimea declared independence from Ukraine on March 17, 2014 and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum a day earlier. Moscow defends Crimea’s reunification with Russia as legitimate, saying more than 90 percent of the people in the Black Sea peninsula voted in favor of rejoining the country in the plebiscite. The West, however, brands the reunification as the annexation of the Ukrainian land by Russia, which strongly rejects the allegation and henceforth considers the peninsula as an inalienable part of the Russian Federation.
In siding with Ukraine, the European Union followed Washington's lead in imposing several rounds of sanctions against Moscow.
In a statement on Thursday, the US Forces Korea (USFK) said the US Department of Defense had asked it to offer some of its equipment to support Ukraine. Two days earlier, the New York Times reported that the US military was tapping into a massive but little-known stockpile of American arms stored in Israel to help Ukraine's army, which desperately needs artillery shells in the current war with Russia.
Ukraine urges allies
Separately in the day, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov jointly called on Western allies to "considerably" boost arms deliveries to Kiev and send modern German-made Leopard tanks. "We appeal to all partner states that have already provided military assistance or are planning to provide it with a call to considerably reinforce their practical contribution to strengthening Ukraine's ability to defend itself," the pair said in a statement.
The Ukrainian ministers said Russia "retains a substantial quantitative advantage in troops, weapons and military equipment" and that the Kremlin is "determined to further escalate hostilities."
According to Kuleba and Reznikov, the supply of modern armored vehicles is "one of the most pressing and urgent needs."
‘Moscow will do all it can to ‘sober up’ EU, NATO’
During a visit to Moscow's close ally Belarus on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would do all it could to "sober up" the European Union and NATO, which he alleged that have determined to weaken and defeat Russia. In his televised comments, Russia's top diplomat said that the Kremlin would set out to disabuse Western politicians of what he called their "presumptuous" and "colonial" attitudes to Russia. "I hope that the sobering up will come. We will do everything so that our colleagues from NATO and the European Union sober up as soon as possible," Lavrov said.