Russia has reiterated its logic behind sending forces to Ukraine, saying Western arms supplies to Kiev had shown that Moscow was right to seek demilitarization of its neighbor.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov made the remarks at a news briefing on Monday, a day after the European Union said it would fund the delivery of weapons to Ukraine following a Russian military operation against the country.
Peskov accused the EU of hostile behavior towards Russia, stressing that the bloc's arms supplies to Ukraine is "dangerous and destabilizing."
"The European Union is an association that is taking an unfriendly position towards us and taking measures that are not friendly, but hostile towards us," he said.
Peskov went on to say that weapons supplies to Ukraine would become "an extremely dangerous and destabilizing factor" that would not help restore stability but could in the long run have much more dangerous consequences.
"This, once again, confirms that Russia was right about the measures that are being taken in order to ensure the demilitarization of the country," he said.
In a televised speech early on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a "special military operation" aimed at “demilitarization” of the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics in eastern Ukraine, collectively known as Donbass.
The regions broke away from Ukraine in 2014 after refusing to recognize a Western-backed Ukrainian government that had overthrown a democratically-elected Russia-friendly administration.
Announcing the operation, Putin said the mission was aimed at “defending people who for eight years are suffering persecution and genocide by the Kiev regime.”
On Sunday, the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said the bloc would provide $500 million in lethal and non-lethal aid to Ukraine, while closing its airspace to Russia and banning some Russian media outlets.
Germany and other European countries have already said they would speed weapons and other military assistance to help Ukraine battle Russian forces.
The Western campaign comes while Russia has asserted that its military operation in Ukraine is only aimed at “military targets,” and, therefore, posed no threat to civilian lives.
Peskov further claimed that many Ukrainians are being used as human shields, describing them as victims of their country's propaganda.
He also said the vast majority of Russia's population has friends or relatives who live in Ukraine, adding, "Naturally, everyone's hearts are aching for what is happening to these relatives."
The Kremlin spokesman declined to comment on the number of casualties Russian forces have suffered, or to elaborate on Putin's instructions at the weekend for Russia's nuclear deterrence forces to be placed on a "high alert."
Ukraine demands 'immediate ceasefire', Russian withdrawal
Meanwhile, Ukraine has demanded an immediate Russian ceasefire and troop withdrawal as its delegation arrived in Belarus for talks with Russian officials.
The talks, the first since the military conflict broke out, will be held just across the Belarusian border with Ukraine.
In a statement on Monday, the Ukrainian presidency announced that the country's delegation, which includes Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov as well as Deputy Foreign Minister Mykola Tochytskyi, has arrived at the Ukrainian-Belarusian border "to take part in talks with representatives of the Russian Federation.
"The key issue of the talks is an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of troops from Ukraine," it added.
In a separate statement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Russian troops to abandon their equipment and leave the battlefield in order to save their lives, claiming that more than 4,500 Russian soldiers had already lost their lives.
He also called on the EU to give Ukraine "immediate" membership, via a special procedure.
Kiev was initially reluctant to send a delegation to Belarus, given the country's role as facilitator in Russia's attack on Ukraine.
However, Zelensky announced on Sunday that Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet for talks at a venue on the Belarusian border with Ukraine. He said the talks would be held without preconditions and are the result of a phone call between him and his Belarusian counterpart.
Zelensky has said he is skeptical about the possibility of a breakthrough.
"As always: I do not really believe in the outcome of this meeting, but let them try," he said.
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