The Dallas Morning News

Ukraine: Talk isn’t enough to deter Putin

With Russian troops massing, nation says West must do more

- By YURAS KARMANAU

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s top diplomat asked Thursday for stronger Western backing, saying “words of support aren’t enough” amid escalating tensions in the country’s east and a Russian troop buildup across the border.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, speaking after talks with his counterpar­ts from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, asked the Baltic nations to reach out to other European Union and NATO members about offering “practical assistance” to Kyiv.

More than 14,000 people have died in seven years of fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatist­s in eastern Ukraine that erupted after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Efforts to reach a political settlement have stalled, and violations of a shaky truce have become increasing­ly frequent in recent weeks across Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, known as the Donbas.

Ukraine and the West also have sounded alarms about the concentrat­ion of troops along Russia’s border, a buildup that the U.S. and NATO have described as the largest since 2014.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy heads to Paris on Friday to discuss the situation with French President Emmanuel Macron. At the end of their lunch, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will join them for a video call.

Zelenskyy said after chairing a meeting of Ukraine’s security council that the discussion­s in Paris would be important in preparing the so-called Normandy format talks involving the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany.

Their last meeting, in Paris in December 2019, helped ease tensions but yielded no progress on a political settlement.

Russia has argued it’s free to deploy its forces wherever it deems necessary on its territory.

The Russian defense minister said earlier this week that the buildup was a response to security threats posed by NATO forces near Russia’s borders.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoma­n Maria Zakharova on Thursday dismissed Western concerns about the troop buildup as a “propaganda campaign” and called on the West to encourage Kyiv to de-escalate tensions in the East.

“Russia isn’t interested in fueling a civil war in Donbas and will do everything to protect its citizens and ensure peace,” Zakharova said.

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