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20 Nov, 2021 22:41

Putin ‘playing chess’ with the West, Ukraine’s defense minister claims

Putin ‘playing chess’ with the West, Ukraine’s defense minister claims

Russia has been testing the “unity” of the West, Ukraine’s new defense minister has claimed, describing Moscow's alleged troop movements near the country's own border as part of President Vladimir Putin’s “chess game.”

Speaking to the Washington Post on Friday, Alexey Reznikov sounded the alarm over reported maneuvers of Russian forces on his nation’s frontier alleging that Moscow was trying to gauge the response of Ukraine and the West as a whole. Similar rotations last spring generated the same sort of alarm. 

“He is testing the unity of the European Union, he is testing the unity of NATO allies, he is testing our society, Ukrainians, he is testing Poland, the Baltic countries,” Reznikov, who has been on a visit to the US, told the newspaper.

The minister called the alleged military activity part of a “chess game” Putin has been playing with the West.

As part of his first trip to Washington in his new role Reznikov met with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, seeking assistance. At a press conference on Friday, Reznikov said that Kiev was hoping to boost its air and missile defense.

He claimed that Ukraine was in the dark about Russia’s plans in the region, claiming that Putin himself had not made up his mind whether to “go through the Ukrainian border and burn the bridges.” 

Having fallen short of outright accusing Moscow of gearing up for war, Reznikov argued that the Russian president was “trying to grow that fear in the heart of people.”

“I hope he has not made his decision on this point,” the official said.

Over the past several years, Kiev has repeatedly invoked the supposed Russia threat as a pretext to demand additional military aid from the West. Recent reports in the US media that Russia has been amassing troops at the border added fuel to the fire.  

Earlier this week, the claims of Russia’s alleged military build-up were reiterated by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said the US and its allies have been concerned “by reports of unusual Russian military [activity].” Referring to Russia’s reabsorption of Crimea, Blinken warned that Moscow could attempt "to rehash what it undertook back in 2014.”

Russia has consistently denied the allegations of seeking to invade Ukraine, insisting that any movement of troops within the country’s territory was its own internal issue. Earlier this month, the Kremlin rejected reports of an allegedly “marked” increase in Russian military activity as “not even worth commenting on,” while claiming that satellite images of the purported build-up “show the border with Belarus.”

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