A Russian official says the United States is encouraging Ukraine to commit terrorist acts against Russia, as Washington signaled it was okay with Kiev hitting Russian-controlled Crimea with Western weapons.
On Wednesday, Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov reacted to comments by US State Department spokesman Ned Price, who said a few hours earlier that it was up to Kiev to decide whether to use Western weapons against Russian forces in Crimea, which was Ukrainian territory before it was annexed by Russia.
"We note that the rhetoric of American officials is becoming more and more militant. The State Department, through their detached-from-reality statements that 'Crimea is Ukraine,' and 'the Armed Forces of Ukraine can use American weapons to protect their territory,' in fact, pushes the Kiev regime to commit terrorist acts in Russia," Antonov said.
Crimea declared independence from Ukraine on March 17, 2014 and formally applied to fall under Russian sovereignty following a referendum that had been declared illegal by Kiev. Moscow later annexed the region.
In his comments on Wednesday, Price told reporters that Ukraine was making its own decisions on how to use Western weapons in its war with Russia.
"Ultimately, it's up to our Ukrainian partners to decide how and where best to use these weapons and supplies to defend their territory," he said.
Price said Washington would not encourage or help Ukraine to attack Russia, but that Crimea was not recognized by the US and Ukraine as Russian territory.
In response, Antonov said that such remarks would encourage "criminals in Kiev" to "once again feel complete permissiveness."
"The risks of an escalation of the conflict will only intensify," he said.
"It is said that the American HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems and, in the future, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles could be involved in the offensive in the Crimean direction. The commentators naively believe that Russia will not respond to strikes on its territory," Antonov said, referring to US-made weapons supplied to Kiev.
Russia launched what it calls "a special military operation" against Ukraine in late February over the perceived threat of the country joining NATO. Since then, the US and Ukraine's other allies have sent Kiev tens of billions of dollars' worth of weapons, including rocket systems, drones, armored vehicles, tanks, and communication systems. Western countries have also imposed a slew of economic sanctions on Moscow.
In a report on Wednesday, The New York Times cited a number of unnamed US officials as saying that following months of discussions with Ukrainian officials, the administration of US President Joe Biden was starting to concede that Kiev may need the power to strike Crimea, even if such a move would increase the risk of escalation.
Situated between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, the Crimean Peninsula is home to tens of thousands of dug-in Russian troops and numerous Russian military bases.
The report said the White House had come to believe that Kiev's position in any future peace talks would be strengthened if the Ukrainian military could threaten Russia's control of Crimea.
The report said that fears that Moscow would retaliate using a tactical nuclear weapon had subsided, though the risk remained.
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