Ukraine Trades Warnings With Russia as Tensions Remain High

Ukraine warned Russia against troops crossing its border and the Kremlin described the situation as “quite tense” as evidence mounted that a standoff between the two neighbors isn’t easing.

“If Russia crosses the red line, then it will have to suffer,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Thursday at a press conference with his counterparts from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, who are visiting Kyiv to demonstrate support. “I hope that diplomatic efforts including this visit will help us to prevent that from happening. And eventually, will help us to restore territorial integrity.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was “premature” to speak of a de-escalation even after the U.S. canceled a planned visit by warships to the Black Sea.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine are at the highest level since the end of large-scale fighting in a conflict that began after President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea on the Black Sea. Citing a Russian troop buildup near the border, Ukraine appealed for Western support to avoid direct confrontation.

The U.S. imposed a raft of new sanctions on Russia on Thursday, including long-feared restrictions on buying new sovereign debt, in retaliation for alleged misconduct including the SolarWinds hack and efforts to disrupt the U.S. election.

Diplomatic efforts to discourage Russia from further escalation are taking place at all levels, Kuleba said. He asked his Baltic counterparts to convey to other members of NATO and the European Union that Ukraine needs “practical support.”

The attempts looked to bear fruit after U.S. President Joe Biden proposed a summit with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. But Peskov warned on Thursday that new U.S. sanctions “wouldn’t facilitate” the meeting.

Rate Hike

Ukraine raised interest rates by more than expected on Thursday amid the tensions to address soaring inflation. The ruble slumped as the sanctions news hit, erasing a rally earlier in the week spurred by Biden’s suggestion of a summit.

Ukraine accuses Russia of stoking tensions to win leverage in talks over the future of the two restive regions, with the Kremlin long seeking a special status that would allow it to hamstring efforts by the government in Kyiv to push for membership of the European Union and NATO.

With Putin’s intentions unclear, the fear is that even a low-level skirmish could reignite more serious fighting. The war over the status of two breakaway regions in Ukraine’s east has already cost more than 13,000 lives.

NATO joined the Group of Seven nations and the European Union earlier in the week in calling for Russia to de-escalate.

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