Germany and France have voiced concern at growing number of cease-fire violations and reports of multiple shelling incidents in eastern Ukraine.
“We are concerned that staged incidents could be misused as a pretext for possible military escalation,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and her French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a joint statement on late Friday.
Both ministers are attending the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, and they are also scheduled to meet with their counterparts from G7 nations to discuss Russia’s major military buildup near Ukraine.
Tensions have risen dramatically in recent days, as the Ukrainian government accused Russian-backed separatists for massive cease-fire violations and provocations, to force Ukraine to respond militarily.
Separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk ordered a mass evacuation of civilians to Russia on Friday, claiming that Ukraine is preparing a military offensive to the eastern regions, collectively known as Donbas.
Foreign ministers of Germany and France have expressed doubt about these claims, and called on Russia to take steps to de-escalate the situation and pursue a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
“We do not see any grounds for these allegations and urge Russia to use its influence over the self-proclaimed republics to encourage restraint and contribute to de-escalation,” the ministers said.
“We continue to express our grave concern about Russia’s massive build-up of armed forces in and around Ukraine and call on Russia to contribute to de-escalation by a substantial withdrawal of military forces from the proximity of Ukraine’s borders.”
US President Joe Biden warned on Friday that Russia is on the brink of invading Ukraine within several days, and accused Moscow of creating a pretext for its invasion plans.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also claimed that Russia was deploying additional troops to the Ukrainian border despite its announcement of a partial military withdrawal.
Moscow has repeatedly denied any plan to invade Ukraine and accused Western countries of undermining Russia’s security through NATO’s expansion toward its borders.
It also issued a list of security demands to the West, including a rollback of troop deployments from some ex-Soviet states and guarantees that Ukraine and Georgia would not join NATO.
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