Brussels, Feb 10 (EFE).- Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that discussions with the United Kingdom had “fallen on deaf ears” amid an escalation of tensions on Ukraine’s border.
Lavrov made the comments at a press briefing with his UK counterpart Liz Truss in Moscow on the same day joint Russian-Belarussian military drills commenced in what NATO has described as Russia’s largest deployment of troops in Belarus since the Cold War.
“Unfortunately our attempts to explain ourselves have fallen on deaf ears,” Lavrov told reporters.
“Either our counterparts are not aware of the facts or are deliberately ignoring them.”
The UK’s foreign secretary urged Russia to abandon its “Cold War rhetoric.”
“There is an alternative route, a diplomatic route that avoids conflict and bloodshed.”
Truss added: “The reality is we cannot ignore the build-up of over 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border and the attempts to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Nato has accused Russia of setting the scene for a potential invasion of Ukraine by amassing troops on its border.
The Kremlin has used the crisis as means to reopen negotiations with NATO and has submitted a wishlist of demands which include a legally binding commitment that neither Ukraine nor any other former Soviet republic would ever be allowed to join the Western military alliance.
Lavrov insisted that the Kremlin was not threatening any country and brushed off concerns saying there was “a lot of hysteria in the West.”
“What aggression are they talking about? When did it start?” the Russian FM said.
Truss said that the UK would want guarantees that Ukraine’s sovereignty would be respected “followed up by actions” and the withdrawal of the more than 100,000 Russian forces on Ukraine’s border.
In Brussels, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the crisis in Ukraine was at its most dangerous point during a joint press conference with NATO’s chief Jens Stoltenberg.
Stoltenberg added that Russia had a choice to either resolve the crisis diplomatically or “pay a high price” if the Kremlin chooses confrontation.
When asked by reporters what measures would be deployed if diplomacy failed, Stoltenberg said economic sanctions and reinforcement of Allied forces in eastern Europe would likely follow.
Johnson said the UK was preparing economically and militarily but that war would be disastrous.
“I just want to stress that it would be an absolute disaster if it were to come to that and if there were to be serious bloodshed on Ukrainian soil,”he said. EFE