Ukraine in plea for Nato help to deter feared Russian invasion

Alliance chief describes latest build-up of Russian troops and tanks on border as ‘unprovoked’

The Ukrainian military takes part in joint training exercises with the US and other Nato countries near Lviv. AFP

Ukraine has asked Nato for a “deterrence package” to bolster its defences against Russia as fears spread among Western nations that it may invade the former Soviet republic.

Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, said additional military support was needed to defend his nation against the threat of Moscow, which has massed troops and artillery on the border with its neighbour.

His plea came after a summit of Nato’s foreign ministers in Riga, Latvia, on Tuesday where diplomats discussed the escalating tension in Ukraine.

At the two-day summit, delegates considered a response to Moscow's military build-up on the edge of Europe amid growing concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin could be planning an incursion.

Mr Kuleba called for a three-pronged approach involving clear communications with the Kremlin, preparing a package of sanctions and increasing military support for Kiev.

"We are confident that if we join efforts, if we act in a co-ordinated fashion, we will be able to deter President Putin and to demotivate him from choosing the worst-case scenario, which is a military operation," Ukraine's foreign minister said.

After the meeting in Riga, Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg warned Russia it would face a "high price" if it launches an operation against Ukraine and said alliance members could impose sanctions. Nato itself does not decide on sanctions.

The Donbass region of eastern Ukraine has been plagued by sporadic fighting with Russia since 2014. Reuters

Mr Stoltenberg said the build-up of Russian troops was “unprovoked and unexplained”.

"We see Russian military build-up, we see heavy armour, we see drones and combat-ready troops,” he said.

"Russia needs to be transparent and they need to reduce tensions and de-escalate."

Ukraine, whose ambitions to join the US-led bloc have stalled, has been receiving increased military support from Nato.

Moscow has stringently denied it is plotting an attack on its neighbour and blamed Nato for fuelling tension. The conflict between Ukrainian soldiers and Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine broke out in 2014. Russia caused international outrage that same year when it annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

Mr Putin on Tuesday said continuing military exercises and other moves by the West and Ukraine threatened Russia’s security and warned against crossing the Kremlin's "red lines".

"Look, they spoke about a possible Russian military intervention in Ukraine at the beginning of the year. But, as you see, this did not happen," he said.

The latest build-up comes after a similar surge in the spring, when Russia gathered around 100,000 troops on Ukraine's borders but later ordered a drawdown.

Updated: December 1st 2021, 9:31 AM