Monday, March 24, 2014

Ukrainian, U.S. Officials Prepare For Possible War As Russia Continues Military Buildup On Border

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s foreign minister said Sunday his nation’s forces were ‘ready to respond,’ as a growing number of international officials suggested Russian President Vladimir Putin could have his sights set on Moldova.

Ukraine Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia said Sunday that the chances of war between his country and Russia were growing.

Meanwhile, American lawmakers repeated calls to send military aid — but not troops — to the Ukraine.

Ukraine's foreign minister said Sunday that the prospect of war with Russia was "growing" as the embattled country's powerful neighbor continued to build its military presence at their shared border.

"This situation is becoming even more explosive than it used to be a week ago," Andrii Deshchytsia said on ABC's "This Week."

"We are ready to respond. And as you know, the Ukrainian government is trying to use all their peaceful means and diplomatic means to stop Russians. But the people are also ready to defend their homeland," he added.

"It would be for us difficult … not to respond on this military invasion," Deshchytsia said in response to a question on how his country might react to any further Russian incursions.

Deshchytsia's strongly worded claim gathered support in Washington immediately, as a growing bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), repeated calls for the U.S. to send military aid to Ukraine -- but both stopped short of calling for U.S. troops.

"It's so important that we take actions to deter further Russian aggression against the Ukrainian people," Ayotte said on CBS' "Face the Nation.

"We could send more communications equipment, technological assistance. There are things we could to that don't involve our boots on the ground."

Durbin encouraged Congress to at least consider sending weapons.

"It may come to small arms as well," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

The White House, meanwhile, wouldn't rule out sending military aid to Ukraine, with one official -- Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken -- saying Sunday that the Obama administration would consider "every request that we're getting from the Ukrainians."

The increased rhetoric comes just a day after Russian forces stormed a Ukrainian air force base in Crimea and abducted one of the nation's top commanders.

Russian troops were still holding Col. Yuliy Mamchur on Sunday in an undisclosed location, according to the AP, after pro-Russian armed militiamen, who didn't bear insignia, advanced onto Belbek Air Force base, near the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol.

Russia has steadily deployed thousands of troops along its border with Ukraine in the days since it formally annexed Crimea, sending ominous signs that President Vladimir Putin could be readying for another incursion against its neighbor.

"He has put all the military units he would need to move into Ukraine on its eastern border and is doing exercises," Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Michigan), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"We see him moving forces in the south in a position where he could take the southern region over to Moldova."

Top NATO officials have also expressed worry that Putin could have his eyes on certain parts of Moldova, a former Soviet Republic that, like Ukraine, has restive Russian-speaking regions that harbor sympathy toward Putin.

A meeting of the G7 group of nations was hurriedly scheduled for Monday in the Netherlands to allow leaders to discuss potential responses to Russia's ongoing military buildup.

Separately, President Obama is set to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for bilateral talks.

Source: News Wire Services

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