Kremlin answers request to ship weapons to Donbass
The Kremlin has said requests from top MPs from Russia's governing party to ship military equipment to the Donbass show how seriously the country is taking the crisis across the border in Ukraine. The group of influential politicians have argued it is a necessary response to recent deliveries of weapons dispatched to Kiev by Western nations.
Vladimir Vasilyev, the parliamentary leader of the United Russia party, made the request in a statement on Wednesday. “We understand that they are pumping up Ukraine with missile systems, grenade launchers, and other supplies,” he said. “There are also instructors there to train them how to use this equipment. This is a great danger. It is preparation for military action, and nothing else. Military action against the peaceful population that lives there.”
“We have waited a long time for a reasonable decision to prevail in Washington, but this is not happening,” he went on. “We only hear about sanctions, and about weapons being sent into the conflict zone.” The MP compared the situation in Ukraine to Nazism and said that it was reminiscent of Stepan Bandera, the far-right Ukrainian nationalist leader whose organization massacred thousands of Poles and Jews in the 1940s. “We cannot accept this,” he insisted.
Vasilyev said that United Russia is concerned about the fates of Russian citizens in the Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic, the territories that broke away from Ukraine following the 2014 Maidan, when mass protests ousted former president Viktor Yanukovych. Separatists there have been fighting a civil war with Ukraine ever since, and Kiev has accused Moscow of aiding them in order to fuel the conflict, which the Kremlin has denied.
“We have come to the understanding that we cannot abandon people to the whim of the regime in Kiev,” Vasilyev concluded.
His words were echoed by Andrey Turchak, another United Russia leader, in an appearance on state TV channel Russia-24 on Wednesday. Turchak argued that NATO, the US-led military bloc, was arming Ukraine, and said, “I think that in these conditions Russia must give the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics the necessary assistance, in the form of different types of weaponry, to increase their defense capabilities.”
Speaking to journalists on Thursday, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said United Russia's request for military aid to Donbass would be "something new," insisting that Moscow has not previously sent weapons to the region, despite Western allegations. President Putin "understands how sensitive this issue is for United Russia," Peskov went on. "But right now he has no response to the initiative."
Ukrainian and Western leaders have been warning for months that they fear that Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning an imminent invasion of Ukraine, which the Kremlin has denied. Moscow, meanwhile, has asked for written guarantees that NATO will not expand into Ukraine or Georgia, a deal that US negotiators have said is off the table.