Ukraine’s military said on Friday it would not launch an offensive against pro-Russian separatists controlling two regions in the east of the country, amid growing fears of a major escalation in the long-standing conflict.
“The liberation of the temporarily occupied territories by force will inevitably lead to the death of large numbers of civilians and wounded soldiers, which is unacceptable to Ukraine,” said Ruslan Khomchak, chief of staff of the military. Ukrainian armed forces. in a report.
The Russian build-up has become the latest sticking point in the icy relationship between Moscow and the administration of US President Joe Biden, adding to disputes over arms control, human rights and other issues.
Biden last week expressed his “unwavering support” for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in his confrontation with Russia, which in 2014 annexed the Crimean peninsula and backed the separatists who seized large parts of the eastern Donbass region.
Russia has said its troops are not a threat and are defensive, but will stay as long as the Kremlin sees fit.
The Kremlin said on Tuesday that Ukraine should take control of its armed forces and not provoke military hostilities in the east of the country.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov added that the situation in eastern Ukraine remains very tense.
Two Ukrainian servicemen have been killed by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in the past 24 hours, the Ukrainian military said on Tuesday, adding to escalating tensions already.
Kyiv said Russia has stepped up its forces near Ukraine’s eastern borders in recent weeks and reports of separatist attacks on Ukrainian government forces have increased dramatically.
NATO has expressed concern over the strengthening of the Russian military in the Donbass region, where Ukrainian troops clashed with Russian-backed separatist forces in a conflict that has been estimated to have killed 14,000 since. 2014.
Moscow and Kiev have long accused each other of not having implemented a peace agreement in the region.