Russia accuses Ukraine of raising tensions in Donbas

Kremlin spokesman says West engaged in smear campaign to paint Russia as threatening peaceful solution in region.

Russia accuses Ukraine of raising tensions in Donbas

The Kremlin Monday accused the Ukrainian military of raising tensions in the restive Donbas region and the West of carrying out a smear campaign against Russia to cover up what they called Kyiv's attempt to deal with the problem through force.

The number of military provocations by Ukraine has risen significantly, carried out using weapons supplied to Kyiv by NATO countries in violation of the 2014 Minsk Protocol, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a briefing in Moscow.

"Of course, we are watching all this with great concern, knowing the significant influence of extremist politicians in Ukraine,” he said.

Peskov rejected accusations of a Russian military buildup near Donbas, on Ukraine's eastern border, saying that Western countries are engaged in a smear campaign to paint Moscow as a threat to reaching a resolution in Ukraine.

"Any movement of Russian troops inside our territory, and we are talking about our territory, does not pose a threat to anyone and should not cause anyone concern,” he said.

"We see that a targeted information campaign is underway ... This is an escalation of tension, an attempt to present Russia as a kind of party that threatens the settlement process," he said.

The alleged campaign can also serve as "camouflage" for Kyiv's attempt to solve the problem of what he called the Russian “southeast by means of force," he argued.

Following last week’s visit of Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov to Washington, US media reported that Biden administration representatives voiced concern to their European colleagues about Russia's possible preparations for an invasion of Ukraine.

The US allegedly cited some "secret information" that only it has access to, but Reznikov voiced the same allegations during his public appearances in the US.

Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in Donbas has seen more than 13,000 people killed since 2014, according to the UN.

The region is one of several sources of friction between Russia and Ukraine, including Russia’s annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region, which the US, Turkey, and the UN General Assembly view as illegal.

US understands situation in Ukraine better than Europe: Lavrov

Separately, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he was very concerned about the “stubbornness” of Germany and France "shielding and justifying the unacceptable actions of the Kyiv regime."

Lavrov claimed Ukraine is escalating "bellicose rhetoric," which, according to him, reflects "a desire to carry out provocation and turn the conflict into a hot phase."

The US understands the situation around the Minsk Protocol better than Europe, and Russia raises this issue in contacts with the US side, he added.

"During the next contact between our presidents – its time and other parameters are being discussed – undoubtedly, the Ukrainian topic will arise one way or another," he said.