Ukrainian troop buildup is defensive, defense minister says

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Tuesday that the former Soviet republic has “no plans to attack anyone,” and its gathering of troops is purely defensive amid speculations of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine as soon as next month.

In recent weeks, there has been a massive Russian troop buildup near Ukraine’s border which has prompted fears of a possible invasion in Kyiv and the West.

Moscow has denied plans to attack Ukraine and in turn blamed Ukraine’s own military buildup in the east of the country, where Ukrainian forces have been fighting with Russia-backed separatists since 2014. Russian officials alleged that Kyiv might try to reclaim the areas controlled by the rebels by force. Ukrainian officials have denied an intention to do so.

“We don’t plan to attack anyone and we don’t plan to invade any other country’s territory,” Reznikov said.

“Our defense capacity is important to protect our people, our society, our lives.”

He told reporters that war in Ukraine means war in Europe, adding that “there are clear signals from the international community that Ukraine will not be left alone in case of a Russian invasion.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has strongly emphasized that Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO represent a red line for Moscow, and also expressed concern about plans by some Alliance members to set up military training centers in Ukraine. He said that would give them a military foothold there even without Ukraine joining the 30-country military organization.

Reznikov said that Ukraine’s right to join any military alliance, including NATO, was written down in the country’s Constitution, adding “we are going to be a de facto NATO member and implement NATO standards.”

“We are going to make to reforms because that is what we need,” he added.

Reznikov was in Stockholm to meet his Swedish counterpart Peter Hultqvist and Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde.

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