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Ukraine’s Zelenskyy urges West not to stir ‘panic’ over ‘imminent invasion’ by Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has criticised the Western states for stirring up panic by warnings of an imminent Russia invasion, saying the panic-triggering alerts are placing a heavy burden on the country’s economy.

“I don’t consider the situation now more tense than before. There is a feeling abroad that there is war here. That’s not the case,” Zelenskyy said at a news conference with foreign media on Friday.

He called on the West to avoid creating “panic” in the face of the Russian troop buildup on Ukraine’s border, stressing, “We don't need this panic.”

“The greatest risk for Ukraine ... is the destabilization of the situation inside the country,” Zelenskyy added, asking, “Because of all these signals that tomorrow there will be war, there are signals even from respected leaders of states, they just say that tomorrow there will be war. This is panic — how much does it cost for our state?”

Russia and the US-led NATO have recently been at odds over Ukraine. Western countries accuse Russia of preparing for an invasion of Ukraine by amassing 100,000 troops and armaments near the border with that country. Rejecting the allegation, Moscow says the troop build-up is defensive as NATO has increased its activity near Russian borders.

Last month, the Russian government demanded that the Western military alliance deny Ukraine membership at NATO and roll back its military deployments.

Moscow also proposed that the US not establish any military bases in the former Soviet states that are not part of NATO, and not develop a bilateral military alliance with them. Washington has rejected the proposals as “non-starters.”

The US and the European Union have already threatened tough economic sanctions against Russia in case of an attack on Ukraine.

Rejecting Russia’s demand to bar Ukraine from NATO, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that Washington, in coordination with NATO allies, had given Moscow “a serious diplomatic path forward, should Russia choose” to resolve the Ukraine crisis.

Earlier on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the West's response to Moscow's security demands did not take into account the Kremlin's key concerns over Ukraine.

“The US and NATO responses did not take into account Russia's fundamental concern, including preventing NATO's expansion and refusing to deploy strike weapons systems near Russia's borders,” Putin told his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, during a telephone conversation.

The Kremlin said that Putin had told Macron that the US had “ignored” other key concerns outlined by the Kremlin and had failed to explain how security in Europe could be guaranteed without hurting the defense concerns of other countries.

Putin also told Macron that he would “carefully” study the US and NATO's responses, “after which he will decide on his further actions.”

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier this week that Moscow would take unspecified "appropriate measures" if Washington and its NATO allies refused to provide Russia with the security guarantees it is demanding.

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, refusing to recognize the referendum results and later imposing sanctions on Moscow.

Ukraine as well as the EU and the US also claim that 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.

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