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Dragging Ukraine into NATO poses unacceptable threats to Russia: Lavrov

This photograph, taken on December 20, 2021 from the deck of the frigate Auvergne, shows the Romanian frigate Regina Maria during an exercise with the Italian army in the waters of the Black Sea off Constanta. (Via AFP)

Moscow says the United States' efforts to "drag" Ukraine into NATO, poses "unacceptable threats" to Russia, citing the prospect of the alliance's strike missile systems appearing near the Russian border.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Bosnian newspaper Oslobodjenje on Friday that Ukraine's possible accession to the US-led military alliance would place NATO missile systems directly on the Russian border.

He said the West needed to stop "dragging" Kiev into NATO.

"The policy towards pulling Kiev into NATO with a prospect of strike missile systems appearing near our borders creates unacceptable security threats to Russia, provoking serious military risks for all the parties involved, up to a large-scale conflict in Europe," Lavrov said.

The top diplomat called on all parties "to reduce the scale of confrontation caused by the US policy of patronizing their Ukrainian protégé."

Tensions have been mounting in eastern Ukraine since November, when several Western media outlets reported that Russia had been amassing troops near the border and claimed that Moscow was planning a large-scale military invasion of the country.

Russia denies the allegations, saying it is free to move its troops around within its own borders and that its military buildup is in response to increased NATO activity near its borders.

Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow did not seek an armed conflict with Ukraine but "has all the capabilities in place to ensure a full military and technical response to any kind of provocations that might unfold around us."

Last week, the Kremlin for the first time laid out guarantees that it wants from the US in order to lower tensions in Europe and defuse the crisis over Ukraine. Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Friday that Russia was ready to hold direct talks with NATO about the proposals for security guarantees.

She said the draft agreement ruled out NATO's "further eastward expansion and the deployment of offensive weapons in the immediate proximity to Russia’s borders."

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