Russia fears: Poland and Ukraine could sparker wider conflict
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The Russian President rejected a meeting with Mrs Merkel after she requested an audience with him to discuss the escalating Russian military presence on the border with Ukraine. She called for a strong EU response in the wake of the rejection, saying that she “very much regretted” Putin’s decision to snub the talks.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Poland in Berlin, she said: “I very much regretted that the Russian president is not prepared — nor is the Russian foreign minister — to hold another high-level political meeting in the Normandy format at the end of my term.”
She also floated new sanctions against Russia “if we see no progress at all”, as she warned that Moscow was not signalling interest in resolving the conflict.
At the same press conference, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki claimed that Putin’s ultimate goal was to divide the EU and NATO, referring to Russia’s alleged role in the migrant crisis at the Poland/Belarus border.
There have been fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine in light of a growing military presence along the border between the two countries.
According to CBS News, US intelligence officials are warning European allies of a potential Russian military incursion into Ukraine, something which they have said would be increasingly likely as the weather gets colder.
They said the invasion could happen in a matter of weeks, barring intervention from the West.
This comes as tens of thousands of Russian troops have amassed at the Ukraine border, months after thousands of troops assembled at the border in the spring.
Last spring’s military presence was regarded by many as a show of force but, according to CBS, US intelligence officials have said that one seems more likely to be in preparation for an actual invasion into the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine.
However, Russia has hit back at Ukraine’s attempts to build up its own military, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov criticising NATO for supplying weapons to the country.
Mr Peskov said: “Kyiv is itself building up its forces, Kyiv is being helped to build up its forces, Kyiv is being supplied with a significant amount of weapons, including modern high-tech weapons.
“The number of provocations is growing and growing significantly.
“What’s more, these provocations are being carried out with weapons being supplied by NATO countries.
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“And we are observing this with great alarm.”
Tensions with Russia have also escalated recently as a result of the growing migrant crisis at the Poland-Belarus border.
At the joint press conference, Mrs Merkel blamed Putin for his alleged role in the crisis.
She said: “We are also dealing with a connection to Russia here.
“We know that [Belarus leader Alexander] Lukashenko and President Putin have a very close relationship.”
This comes as Belarus’s leader Alexander Lukashenko has been accused of luring refugees to the Polish border in what the EU has described as an attempt to “destabilize the EU”.
Thousands of refugees are currently camped out at the Polish border, attempting to get to Poland in order to seek asylum in the EU.
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