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4 Jun, 2024 14:40

Western troops in Ukraine ‘have no immunity’ – Kremlin

Foreign military personnel in the country will be considered legitimate targets, Moscow says
Western troops in Ukraine ‘have no immunity’ – Kremlin

Any foreign military personnel sent to Ukraine will be legitimate targets for Russian strikes, whether they are from France or anywhere else, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.

Peskov was asked about a report in the Washington Post, published on Monday, alleging that Russian President Vladimir Putin “might see hitting French troops, if Russian forces can locate them... as a chance to humiliate [French President Emmanuel] Macron.”

The remark was an apparent reference to a French plan to send military instructors to Ukraine. Macron has repeatedly claimed he does not rule out the possibility of NATO members sending troops to Ukraine.

“The fact is that any instructors who are involved in training the military of the Ukrainian regime do not have any immunity,” Peskov told reporters on Tuesday. “And it doesn’t matter whether they are French or not.”

Peskov’s comments came after senior Ukrainian lawmaker Aleksey Goncharenko announced last week that a first group of French military instructors was en route to the country. Earlier, Kiev’s top commander, Aleksandr Syrsky, said he had completed paperwork allowing instructors from France to visit Kiev’s training facilities and familiarize themselves with local infrastructure.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also told reporters on Tuesday that there are “numerous facts” indicating that French instructors are already working in Ukraine.

Regardless of their designation, “whether they are members of the French armed forces or simply mercenaries, they represent an absolutely legitimate target for our armed forces,” Lavrov warned.

The remark echoed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statement last week, when he said Western military trainers “have long been present” in Ukraine.

Last week Reuters reported, citing diplomatic sources, that France was seeking to form and lead a coalition of countries providing instructors for Kiev. Under the alleged scheme, Paris would initially send a limited number of personnel to assess the mission before dispatching several hundred instructors.

The training would focus on demining, and maintenance of Western-made equipment including warplanes. Paris would also finance, arm and train a Ukrainian motorized brigade, Reuters added.

The idea of deploying NATO troops in Ukraine remains a contentious issue within the US-led bloc, whose members maintain that they are not parties to the conflict with Russia. Moscow, however, has said it views Ukraine’s Western backers as direct participants, as Western-supplied weapons are being used to strike targets on Russian soil.