Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned that Moscow will respond to any provocative moves by the United States to drag Ukraine into "geopolitical games” as tensions between the two sides escalate over Russia’s neighbor.
Russia’s Interfax news agency cited Lavrov as raising the alarm during talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the Swedish capital of Stockholm on Thursday.
The top Russian diplomat also said that Russia and the United States needed to agree on long-term security guarantees.
In a news conference after the summit, Lavrov stressed that Moscow would take measures to ensure its own security if the United States and its allies refused to discuss security guarantees with Russia.
The Russian foreign minister also pointed to earlier proposals by Moscow for a new European security pact that would stop NATO from expanding further east.
"NATO continues to escalate the situation on our borders, refuses to consider our proposals to de-escalate tensions, prevent dangerous incidents. As you know, we have been proposing merely specific actions on these issues. Military capabilities in eastern Europe, including near Russian borders, are actively built up, while at the same time we hear air-shaking statements about us. All this inevitably affects the activities of the OSCE," Lavrov told the presser.
"If the NATO members continue to avoid talking about this topic or about the arrangement that President Vladimir Putin has put forward, of course, we will take measures so that our security, our sovereignty, and our territorial integrity do not depend on anyone," he added.
Lavrov also said that the spiral of tit-for-tat sanctions between Moscow and Washington had gone too far in recent years.
Relations between Ukraine and Russia have been deteriorating since 2014, when the then-Ukrainian territory of Crimea voted in a referendum to fall under Russian sovereignty. The US and the European Union-backed Kiev refused to recognize the referendum results, later imposing sanctions on Moscow.
Ukraine as well as the EU and the US also claim Russia has a hand in an ongoing conflict that erupted in the Donbass region of Ukraine between government forces and ethnic Russians in 2014. The West imposed sanctions on Russia after accusing it of interfering in the conflict. Moscow denies the allegation.
Ukraine claims that Russia has deployed heavy-armored vehicles, electronic warfare systems and nearly 100,000 soldiers around its borders while Russia says Ukraine has deployed half of its army, or 125,000 troops, to the ethnic Russian region of Donbass, calling it “very dangerous adventurism” by Kiev.
The Kremlin has warned that the US and NATO are turning Ukraine into a “powder keg” by increasing arms supplies to Kiev and inflaming tensions in the country's volatile east.
Last month, a Ukraine-bound ship carrying former American Coast Guard patrol boats designed to boost the Ukrainian Navy sailed through the Dardanelles strait. Earlier this year, the US also sent a large consignment of ammunition plus Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, drawing criticism from Moscow.