MOSCOW, Feb 9 (Reuters) – A senior Russian official accused the West on Wednesday of ramping up political pressure on Moscow by supplying weapons and ammunition to support Ukraine during a standoff over a Russian military buildup.
Moscow has massed troops near Ukraine, and is set to stage military drills in close ally Belarus to Ukraine’s north, stirring fears that it could invade. Russia denies any plan to attack Ukraine.
Countries such as the United States and Britain have supplied military aid to Ukraine that has included anti-tank missiles and launchers to help it defend itself. Others, such as Germany, have sent helmets, shunning lethal aid.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the military supplies to Ukraine amounted to Western “blackmail and pressure.”
“Everything happening in terms of pumping Ukraine with equipment, ammunition, military hardware including lethal weapons is an attempt to put additional political pressure on us, as well as probably military technical pressure,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency.
Ukraine’s desire to move closer to the West politically is widely seen abroad as one of Moscow’s main concerns as it seeks security guarantees from the West that would veto Kyiv’s accession to NATO and halt the military alliance’s expansion.
Ryabkov pointed to an unconfirmed Russian media report that Kyiv had requested THAAD missile defense systems from the United States, calling it a “provocation.”
RIA quoted him as saying that if Washington seriously considered such supplies, it would reduce the odds of a political diplomatic resolution to the standoff. (Reporting by Anton Kolodyazhnyy; writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Timothy Heritage)