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Ukraine urges more help from NATO, complains of being used as ‘shield’

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)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukraine has urged the Western military alliance of NATO for more support in the face of a possible military conflict, complaining about having been used as a “shield” against neighboring Russia.

Addressing the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky alleged that the alliance has been leading "a policy of appeasement" towards Moscow, adding, "For eight years, Ukraine has been a shield. For eight years, Ukraine has been holding back one of the greatest armies in the world."

Zelensky traveled to Munich despite continued shelling in his country's east that has so far left two Ukrainian soldiers dead.

The Ukrainian president, however, called for "clear, feasible timeframes" for Ukraine to join the US-led NATO military alliance, an issue, which has been announced by Moscow as a red line for its security.

The Ukrainian leader also said he was willing to meet with Vladimir Putin to find out "what the Russian president wants."

Zelensky also pushed back against Washington's dire predictions in Munich. "We do not think that we need to panic," he told the audience of top-level officials and security experts from around the world.

The eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk and its neighboring city of Donetsk, which are known together as the Donbass region, broke away from Ukraine in 2014. Kiev and Donbass’ pro-Russian forces have been at war ever since.

Blasts rock Donetsk

Later on Saturday and early on Sunday, multiple loud explosions were heard in the center of city of Donetsk.

The origin of the explosions was not clear and there was no immediate comment from either the separatist authorities or Kiev.

The pro-Russian forces have blamed Ukraine for seeking a flare-up by shelling their positions.

Zelensky’s remarks appeared to be echoing those of the United States and its Western allies that Russia has a hand in the conflict. Moscow vehemently rejects the allegation.

The Western allies have refused to allay Moscow’s concerns, and have even accused it of seeking to “invade” Ukraine.

Most recently, US President Joe Biden said he was "convinced" that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin planned to carry out such invasion, and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned that everything indicated Russia was preparing a "full-fledged attack."

Moscow has repeatedly scoffed at the accusations as mere “hysteria.”

NATO moves Ukraine staff from Kiev to Lviv, Brussels

The US has even drawn down the number of its diplomatic staffers in Kiev, a step that was mirrored by NATO, which has started to relocate its Kiev-based staff to Lviv in western Ukraine and Brussels.

"The safety of our personnel is paramount, so staff have been relocated to Lviv and Brussels. The NATO offices in Ukraine remain operational," a NATO official told AFP on Saturday.

Ukraine is not a member of NATO, and the alliance does not have any forces there.

But since the late 1990s it has maintained two offices in Kiev: a NATO Liaison Office and a NATO Information and Documentation Center.

A NATO official was quoted by AFP as saying that both offices were located in the same building in Kiev and were collectively called the NATO Representation to Ukraine.

Several Western countries have already moved diplomats from Kiev to Lviv, located near the border with Poland.

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