Prime minister: Russia's NATO, US demands are 'absurd'
Prime minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) has called Kremlin demands that the United States withdraw its military personnel from the Central and Eastern Europe region 'absurd', while defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) says that the escalation level regarding Ukraine remains high.
Talking to ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Thursday, Kallas said that: "We should treat this demand as what it is, an absurd demand, something which is understood by all our allies."
"Our allies have assured us, one by one and collectively, that Article Five and our collective defense are their business," Kallas went on, referring to the main section of the NATO treaty dealing with collective security.
"So they're behind us to a man," she added.
On the EU, Kallas said that as an economic community, it will issue harsh sanctions in the event of any incursion into Ukraine by Russia, in addition to sanctions imposed by states such as the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Switzerland.
Laanet: Preparedeness must remain in place
Defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) said on Thursday that preparedness for any possible Russian attack on Ukraine must remain in place.
"As of now, the escalation is still high," Laanet, who had just come from a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, said.
"At present we see that Russian troops are still inside Belarus for so-called joint exercises; but naturally there is a readiness aspect to this," Laanet went on.
"In the event of any order to attack Ukraine, or worse, a NATO member state, they are ready," Laanet added.
Russia called for U.S. withdrawal from all CEE states as a precondition to resolving the crisis with Ukraine, in a letter handed to U.S. ambassador to Russia John Sullivan and which stated (link in Russian): "If the U.S: and its allies fail to agree on firm and legally binding security guarantees, Russia will be forced to respond, including military-technical measures."
Russia says the U.S. has violated basic security standards, adding that in any case it does not intend to attack Ukraine, dismissing U.S. warnings along those lines as an attempt to denigrate Russian security guarantee proposals.
Meanwhile the Wall Street journal said that fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine had escalated, with both sides accusing the other of violating cease-fire terms.
U.S. President Joe Biden said that the Kremlin was in fact fabricating a pretext to invade its neighbor, warning that the threat of a Russian incursion remained "very high."
The Kremlin letter said Russia would also resort to unspecified "military-technical measures" if the U.S. and its allies did not issue a pledge to never permit Ukraine to join NATO, among other security guarantees, including the demand to remove U.S. troops noted above.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte