France warns Russia about Ukraine, Moscow refuses to weigh attacks

  • Diplomats say the United States shared details about Russian military activities
  • Russia rejects proposals that it could attack Ukraine
  • French and Russian ministers met in Paris for crisis talks

MOSCOW / PARIS, NOVEMBER 12 (Reuters) – France on Friday warned Russia against harming Ukraine’s territorial integrity after the United States shared with European allies its fears about Russian troop movements at the Ukrainian border and about a potential attack.

Four European diplomats told Reuters that US officials had expressed their concerns about an attack on Ukraine with their EU allies at a briefing in Brussels. Two said the meeting was held on Wednesday with 30 ambassadors on a par with NATO’s transatlantic alliance.

France’s foreign and defense ministers, Jean-Yves Le Drian and Florence Parly, issued an unusually sharp statement after meeting their Russian counterparts in Paris.

“The two Ministers expressed their concern at the deteriorating security situation in Ukraine and clearly warned of the serious consequences of any further possible damage to Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” the statement said.

Earlier in the day, Russia had rejected as an inflammatory proposal that Moscow could weigh an attack and accused the United States of aggressive movements in the Black Sea.

European diplomats declined to provide further details on US causes or evidence to fear an attack.

In addition, a diplomatic source said that Karen Donfried, Deputy Foreign Minister for European and Eurasian Affairs, at a meeting of the North Atlantic Council last week – the most important political decision-making body in NATO – briefed in more detail on her recent trip to Moscow and shared her concern. troop build-up.

“The patterns of Russian behavior are different from what we have seen before,” a NATO source said without elaborating. “So far, it is unclear whether this military build-up is intended to lead to an intervention in Ukraine, or whether it is just another exercise.”

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, saying that the waters around it now belong to Moscow, despite the fact that most countries continue to recognize the peninsula as Ukrainian.

Russian-backed separatists took control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region the same year, and soldiers on both sides continue to be regularly killed in the conflict there.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov sits in front of an electronic screen during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference at the end of the year, held online in video conferencing mode, in Moscow, Russia on December 17, 2020. REUTERS / Maxim Shemetov / File Photo

The Kremlin said it was up to Moscow, where it was deployed within its borders. “Such headlines do nothing but create meaningless and unfounded tensions. Russia does not pose a threat to anyone,” said spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, in Paris for the talks with Parly and Le Drian, was quoted by TASS as saying it was important to work with France to de-escalate the Ukrainian situation.

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In another rare reprimand from Moscow earlier this week, Paris accused it of blocking efforts to convene a ministerial meeting between France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine aimed at pushing for peace agreements concluded in 2014. France and Germany accused Russia of impose unrealistic conditions, something Moscow denies.

The European Union this week accused the close Russian ally of Belarus of encouraging thousands fleeing war-torn parts of the world to try to cross the country’s borders.

Brussels is expected to impose new sanctions next week, diplomats have said. There is currently no suggestion that Russia supports Belarus operationally, although it has publicly criticized the EU.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it detected six flights with NATO spy planes in the airspace over the Black Sea, part of what it described as intensifying reconnaissance by the Western military.

The Russian military also said it was tracking down U.S. naval ships in the Black Sea, accusing Washington of studying the region as a potential war theater.

Following Washington’s return, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that Kyiv and its Western allies had stepped up diplomatic efforts to warn Russia against launching a new military attack on Ukraine.

A spokeswoman for Germany’s foreign ministry said ministers from France, Germany and Ukraine would discuss the crisis in Brussels on Monday.

Further reporting by Robin Emmott in Brussels; Sabine Siebold and Andreas Rinke in Berlin; Written by Tom Balmforth, John Irish, Ingrid Melander; Edited by Andrew Osborn and Andrew Cawthorne

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