Russia has censured as “a provocation” a reported Ukrainian request for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile systems from the United States, stressing that considering such supplies would deal a setback to efforts to ease an ongoing crisis between Moscow and the West over Ukraine.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov made the remark on Wednesday, after Russian media reported that Kiev had turned to the US with a request to deploy several battalions of the US anti-ballistic THAAD missile defense systems near Kharkov.
Ryabkov said if Washington seriously considered such supplies, it would reduce the odds of a political diplomatic resolution to the standoff over Ukraine, the country’s state-owned news agency RIA quoted him as saying.
The THAAD is built and integrated by Lockheed Martin, America’s biggest arms maker. The advanced weapon is designed to shoot down short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles using advanced detection radars designed by Raytheon, another US arms maker.
Separately, Alexander Pankin, another Russian deputy foreign minister, said Russia had called on the United States “to avoid stupidity” and not deteriorate the situation further, as he discussed reports about the potential delivery of THAAD systems to Ukraine.
“We still call on our American colleagues, with whom we are in dialogue at various levels, including the highest level, not to do stupid things, to behave prudently, not to use the situation to lead it further and further into a dead end, from which it will be difficult to find a way out. We will use further diplomatic methods on our part,” Pankin told a round table discussion at the Valdai forum on Wednesday.
Pankin further said Moscow hoped the tensions over Ukraine as well as Russia’s security demands from the West would be resolved diplomatically.
The latest development comes amid reports of Western countries deploying additional troops and military hardware to Eastern Europe as part of efforts to reinforce NATO’s military buildup in the region against an alleged Russian threat.
Relations between Russia and the West have hit a new low in recent weeks. The United States, its NATO allies, and Ukraine have accused Russia of amassing troops near Ukraine’s border for a possible invasion. Moscow rejects the allegation and insists that deployments are defensive in nature.
NATO members Britain and Poland have agreed to directly send arms to Ukraine, including handguns, ammunition, and anti-tank weapons. The US military has also placed 8,500 troops on heightened alert to prepare for deployment in Eastern Europe and bolster the NATO presence in the region. The US State Department has also approved shipments of US-made missiles and other weapons from NATO allies Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia to Ukraine.
Britain is also considering deploying fighter jets and warships to Southeastern Europe.
The US and the European Union have threatened tough sanctions against the Kremlin in the event of an attack on or invasion of Ukraine.
American and Russian diplomats held talks to resolve the crisis over Ukraine in January but failed to make a breakthrough. However, they agreed to continue the talks.
Russia has demanded legally binding guarantees from NATO that it will halt its eastward expansion and return to its 1997 borders. Moscow also demanded that the military alliance never admit Ukraine as a member.
British PM Johnson to visit Poland for talks on Ukraine
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is scheduled to visit Poland on Thursday, amid growing tensions over the security situation in Ukraine.
Johnson will visit the British soldiers stationed in Poland together with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and will also meet President Andrzej Duda, an unnamed Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters on Wednesday.
British Defense Minister Ben Wallace has said that Britain would send a further 350 troops to Poland.
This comes as the US has already ordered the deployment of 3,000 troops to Poland, Romania, and Germany.
NATO’s eastern member Poland borders Russia and Ukraine while Romania borders Ukraine.