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Ukraine asks for US missile systems, troops; Russia warns of retaliation

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A battery of the US Patriot air defense missiles deployed at the Polish town of Morag, near the Russian border (File photo)

Ukraine has called on the United States to send troops and anti-missile systems to the country, in a controversial move that has prompted Russia to warn of retaliation.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexey Reznikov made the request during a visit to Washington, he said in a statement on Tuesday.

“It is important to expand the security package for Ukraine,” Reznikov said. “First of all, with the stationing of air defense forces, and even by deploying American units.” 

He argued that under Ukraine’s legislation, foreign troops were allowed to be stationed in the country.

Russia, which has long warned the US and its NATO allies against sending military forces close to its borders, described Reznikov’s request as a “crude provocation.”

The Russian state foreign affairs committee chairman, Leonid Slutsky, said in a message on Tuesday that the deployment of US military forces near the Russian border “will undoubtedly evoke Moscow’s response” and that “tensions will merely soar.”

“It is regrettable that Ukraine’s laws allow for stripping it of what is still left of its sovereignty, and its citizens, of a chance to live in security,” Slutsky said. He said Kiev would “sacrifice” the nation’s sovereignty “to prolong their participation in the anti-Russia project.”

Relations between Moscow and Kiev have been strained since conflict erupted in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region between Ukrainian government forces and ethnic Russians in 2014. The US, the European Union, and Ukraine claim that Russia has a hand in the conflict. Moscow strongly rejects the allegation.

That same year, the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea voted to fall under Russian sovereignty in a referendum, further complicating relations.

Moscow and Washington have deep-seated differences over a host of other issues as well, including arms control, human rights, and cybersecurity.

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