Ukraine Foreign Minister Asks Nations to Pressure NATO For Help as Russian Troops Build up at Border

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, amid rising tensions after a Russian troop buildup across its border, on Thursday morning asked the Baltic nations to pressure members from the European Union and NATO to help the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, according to the Associated Press.

Kuleba's request for Western support came after he spoke with visiting officials from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. He said he believes "words of support aren't enough."

"This visit is intended to show that we stand in solidarity with Ukraine (and) strongly support this country and its right to self-defense," said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, according to AP.

Landsbergis also said that it was to provide a demonstration to Russia that "provocative actions can have consequences."

After Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in 2014, there has been seven years of violence in the Ukraine between the country's forces in the east and Russia-backed separatists that has left more than 14,000 dead, according to AP.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to discuss the tensions with French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday.

When Newsweek reached out to NATO for comment, a spokesperson pointed to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's statements made during a press conference Wednesday with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III.

"Today, NATO Ministers also addressed Russia's military build-up in and around Ukraine. This is the biggest massing of Russian troops since the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and it is part of a broader pattern of Russian aggressive actions, which raises very serious concerns," Stoltenberg said.

"Allies fully support Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and we call on Russia to de-escalate immediately."

Stoltenberg also urged Russia to stop its pattern of aggressive provocations and to respect its international commitments.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba arrives for the start of an EU-Ukraine Summit at the European Council in Brussels on October 6, 2020. Kuleba has recently expressed the need for Western support amid a Russian troop buildup at Ukraine's border. Stephanie Lecocq/AFP via Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Efforts to reach a political settlement between Ukraine and Russia have stalled and violations of a shaky truce have become increasingly frequent in recent weeks.

Ukraine and the West also have sounded alarms about the concentration of troops along Russia's western border, a buildup that the U.S. and NATO have described as the largest since 2014.

Russia has argued that it's free to deploy its forces wherever it deems necessary on its territory. The Russian defense minister charged earlier this week that the buildup was a response to security threats posed by NATO forces near Russia's borders.

Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, on Thursday dismissed Western concerns about the Russian troop buildup as a "propaganda campaign" and urged the West to encourage Kyiv to de-escalate tensions in the east.

Kremlin officials have warned Ukraine against trying to use force to reclaim control of the rebel east, saying that Russia may intervene to protect Russian civilians in the region.

Amid the recent tensions, the United States informed Turkey that two U.S. warships would sail to the Black Sea on April 14 and 15 and stay there for about three weeks. But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday that the U.S. Embassy had notified Ankara that the two warships wouldn't be making the crossing.

The U.S. Navy ships have made regular visits to the Black Sea in past years, vexing Moscow. Earlier this week, a senior Russian diplomat described the planned U.S. ships' deployment to the Black Sea as "openly provocative."