The President of Ukraine launched another verbal attack on Moscow. President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday returned to the news agenda the topic of the possibility of a full-scale war with Russia. Having assured that Moscow is capable of taking such a step, he again called on his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to dialogue. The Kremlin and the Russian Foreign Ministry responded by calling President Zelensky’s reasoning “apocalyptic” and divorced from reality.
The absentee dispute was also supported by the military: the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation accused the Ukrainian side of spreading fakes about the West-2021 exercises, and the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced international maneuvers with the participation of NATO members – the very alliance to which Kyiv, as follows from the speech of Volodymyr Zelensky, vital to both parties.
The possibility of a large-scale war with Russia on Friday, speaking at the annual international conference “Yalta European Strategy” (YES), was admitted by President Vladimir Zelensky. “This is the worst thing that can be, but, unfortunately, there is such a possibility,” he said, pointing out that provoking a war would be Moscow’s “biggest mistake”.
Active preparations are underway to repel “large-scale aggression” in Ukraine, said the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces, Valery Zaluzhny, on the same day. According to him, evidence of “aggressive intentions” is the unprecedented scope of exercises of Russia and Belarus “West-2021”, which started on Friday at 14 military ranges and in the Baltic Sea. In total, up to 200 thousand people will be involved in them. Kyiv, as pointed out by Mr. Zaluzhny, is considering different scenarios for the development of events, including the possibility of some provocations in the Donbas.
In turn, Ukraine from September 22 to 30 will hold a strategic command and staff exercise called “United Efforts-2021”. According to Valery Zaluzhny, the maneuvers, which will become the “result of the year’s work” of Ukraine, will take place at key military training grounds, as well as in the waters of the Black and Azov Seas. They will be attended by up to 12.5 thousand servicemen, including from NATO countries. As the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Friday on its Facebook page, the exercises will serve as “an element of deterring the aggressor.” Which one – it was unnecessary to add.
Note that the Russian military also had claims to Ukraine. The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation said on Friday that certain persons in the republic on behalf of the Rospotrebnadzor administration in the Voronezh region are spreading fake letters about “the alleged illness of the participants in the West-2021”. “This is not the first distribution of false information to the Russian media, coordinated from the territory of Ukraine, in order to discredit the joint strategic exercise Zapad-2021, which has begun,” the ministry said.
Rospotrebnadzor itself called a photo collage the distribution of information about an outbreak of dysentery among the military.
The words of the Ukrainian president did not go unnoticed in Moscow either. “Zelensky’s statements are becoming more and more divorced from reality. Phrases that are not connected by a single logic and do not express any conceptual approach to the phrase. A superficial fragmentary reaction, ”Maria Zakharova, an official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, wrote in her Telegram channel. “Mr. Zelensky seems to have played into the commander-in-chief and allows himself to voice fantasies about a possible military clash with Russia.
The purpose of such anti-Russian statements is always the same – to create in the eyes of the population of Ukraine and the world community the image of Russia as an aggressor country, “said Sergei Zheleznyak, a member of the State Duma’s international affairs committee. The press secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov spoke more restrainedly, noting that he did not want to indulge in “apocalyptic expectations” regarding the war.
At the same time, Dmitry Peskov on Friday did not comment on other statements by Vladimir Zelensky – about his readiness to “meet in detail” with Russian President Vladimir Putin and discuss the exchange of prisoners of war, the opening of new checkpoints in Donbass, and the clearance of territories. Moscow’s position on the possibility of a summit remains the same. The Kremlin has repeatedly noted that the Russian leader is ready to talk, in particular, about the “sad state” of relations between the two countries, but, for example, the Crimean issue has been completely closed – but that is what the Ukrainian authorities want to discuss. A new confirmation of this just appeared on Friday.
“The battle for Crimea is a battle for Ukraine,” said the head of the republic’s Foreign Ministry, Dmitry Kuleba, speaking at the Verkhovna Rada during the “Hour of Questions to the Government”. He added that without Crimea “there will be no sovereign Ukraine.” And Vladimir Zelensky in his speech touched on another painful point: the president indicated that the Russian Federation does not want to enter into dialogue and quickly end the war in Donbass, so he intends to “force them (Russians – Kommersant) to talk about de-occupation” of Ukrainian territories. Recall that since 2014, Moscow has been claiming that the Russian Federation can in no way be considered a participant in the Donbas conflict.
While harshly criticizing the Russian authorities, Vladimir Zelensky in his speech nevertheless made it clear: all is not yet lost. He noted that someday “everything will return – territories, people and, probably, relations (with Russia. -” Kommersant “)”.
The head of Ukraine connected such hopes with the fact that there are “smart Russians” who respect the independence of the neighboring country.
In the meantime, Kyiv continues to pin its main hopes on NATO. On Friday, Volodymyr Zelenskyy assured: Ukraine is ready to join the alliance, which confirms the level of its specialists and the army – “one of the strongest in the world.” At the same time, he expressed confidence that without Ukraine there would be no “strong European Union”, and NATO would lose a lot. “If you want Russia to become stronger, don’t take Ukraine (in the EU and NATO – Kommersant),” the Ukrainian leader said.
However, the West still does not give Kyiv any guarantees of an early expansion of the alliance. Last week, for example, the German Ambassador to Ukraine Anka Feldgusen in an interview with the Television News Service (TSN) website bluntly stated: “The fact remains that there is a military conflict in Ukraine. It is always difficult for NATO to accept new countries where there are such conflicts. ” And the former American ambassador to Kyiv, John Herbst, recently frankly stated: “Ukraine will not be able to join NATO in the next, say, ten years, and certainly in the next five years. Mainly due to the fact that there is significant opposition to this within the alliance. In fact, they are afraid to provoke irritation from Russia ”.
This was confirmed by the recent visit of Vladimir Zelensky to Washington, where he held talks with American President Joe Biden. “Yes, we didn’t get a direct position (USA – Kommersant) regarding Ukraine’s joining NATO,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy was forced to admit on Friday. But he immediately assured that, in his opinion, in any case, Ukraine “can rely on the United States.”