Kremlin says Ukraine may use force to reclaim rebel regions

Kremlin says Ukraine may use force to reclaim rebel regions


MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin voiced concern Thursday about what it described as belligerent rhetoric of the Ukrainian leadership, saying it raises concerns about a possible escalation of fighting in a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian and Western officials have worried about a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine, fearing it could herald an invasion. But Moscow has insisted it has no such intention and accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making up the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that “the Ukrainian authorities' aggressive and increasingly intensive provocative action on the line of contact” gives grounds for concerns about a possible flare-up of hostilities.

He said that recent statements from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials indicate that “the Ukrainian leadership doesn't exclude a forceful scenario.”

“The probability of hostilities in Ukraine still remains high,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.

Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed separatist republic in Donetsk, said on Russian state television that he could turn to Moscow for military assistance if the region faces a Ukrainian attack.

Ukrainian officials have denied an intention to reclaim the rebel regions by force.

The two ex-Soviet neighbors have remained locked in a tense tug-of-war after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 following the ouster of the country’s Kremlin-friendly president and threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, known as the Donbas. More than 14,000 people have died in the fighting.

President Vladimir Putin has warned NATO against deploying its troops and weapons to...

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