Ukraine to allies: West must act now to ensure no new Russia military offensive


Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during an interview with Reuters in Kyiv, Ukraine April 21, 2021. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine on Wednesday urged Western allies to show they were prepared to punish Moscow with new sanctions, including kicking Russia out of the global SWIFT payments system, to deter the Kremlin from resorting to more military force against Ukraine.

In an interview with Reuters, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said while Kyiv had no new information indicating that Russia had decided to take new military action against Ukraine, it was important for the West to act now to prevent that happening.

Ukraine is trying to shore up international support in its standoff with Moscow over a build-up of Russian troops on its eastern border and in Crimea.

"I have no information to state that the decision to launch a military operation against Ukraine has already been taken. So it can go in either direction now," Kuleba said.

"And this is why the reaction of the West, the consolidated reaction of the West, is so important now, to prevent Putin ... from making that decision."

Kyiv and Moscow have traded blame for a collapse in the ceasefire in the eastern Donbass region, where Ukrainian troops have battled Russian-backed forces in a conflict Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people since 2014.

Kuleba said he asked Washington to supply "powerful means of electronic warfare" to counter Russia's capacity to jam Ukrainian communications when he met U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week.

He also revealed he had urged a meeting of European Union foreign ministers on Monday to consider "banning Russia from SWIFT" as part of a package of new economic sanctions if Russia escalated the situation.

Western diplomacy had helped restrain Russia but everything "will depend on whether they're ready to ... follow their words with deeds," Kuleba said.

He said Ukraine had not received a response from the Kremlin to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's invitation to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Tuesday for talks in the Donbass conflict zone.

Putin on Wednesday warned the West not to cross Russia's "red lines", saying Moscow would respond swiftly and harshly to any provocations.

"I read the message of President Putin the following way: 'we will be crossing your red lines, but you are not allowed to cross our red lines, and we will be defining where our red lines are,'" Kuleba said.

(Additional reporting by Sergiy Karazy; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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