Ukraine does not rule out that Russia may use its forces, now concentrated in the occupied Crimea and near Ukraine's eastern borders, for a large-scale provocation against Ukraine this year, Ukrainian Defense Minister Andrii Taran has said.
He said this during an online meeting of the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Security and Defense (SEDE) on Wednesday, April 14, according to an Ukrinform correspondent.
"Given all the available data, we cannot rule out that Russian occupation forces in Crimea and/or those near our borders may carry out significant military provocations this year," Taran said.
He noted that the analysis of current events unfolding in the occupied territories of Ukraine and around it "allows us to conclude about the probable intentions of the aggressor country."
"First of all, it is a projection of Russia's power to increase pressure on our country in order to offset the progress of reforms, positive domestic political development, and completely curtail our Euro-Atlantic aspirations. Secondly, we are concerned about preparations for offensive operations using regular Russian troops from Crimea in order to ensure water supply to the peninsula, which is the responsibility of the occupying country. There is a high probability that Russia will try to repeat the provocation according to the 'Georgian' scenario in order to accuse Ukraine of violating the ceasefire and expand by force the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions," Taran said.
At the same time, according to him, Russia intends to create conditions for large-scale strategic exercises Zapad 2021.
Taran said that all these probable scenarios were reflected in drastic changes in the behavior of the Russian delegation within the Trilateral Contact Group. As a result of Russia's counterproductive approach, the TCG's diplomatic work has been blocked, he said. The Russian side demands that Ukraine comply with the political provisions of the Minsk agreements without fulfilling much-needed security commitments. Under this pretext, he said, the Russian delegation does not even want to mention the complete ceasefire and rejects any peace initiatives by Ukraine.
"Ukraine supports the resolution of the conflict through political and diplomatic means. At the same time, the Ukrainian Armed Forces, like all other state institutions, understand the price of peace, which is already measured in thousands of lives. This year alone, Ukraine has lost 28 soldiers killed in the fighting and another 68 have been wounded," he said.
He appealed to international partners and all European countries to redouble their vigilance and step up measures to deter Russia in order to persuade it to comply with international law. The entire international community should be aware of what is happening around Ukraine's borders and the escalation that Russia is resorting to, Taran said.
For its part, he said, the Ukrainian side continues to develop the combat capabilities of the Armed Forces and improve the system of command and control of troops in accordance with key principles of NATO and the EU.