The foreign minister’s comments come as his counterparts from the Baltic states visit Kiev in solidarity.
Ukraine’s foreign minister has accused Russia of blatantly threatening Ukraine with destruction as fears continue to mount over a possible escalation of hostilities in the conflict-ridden east of the country.
Fighting has intensified in recent weeks in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions, where government forces have been fighting Russian-backed separatists since April 2014, after rebels seized part of the territory.
Meanwhile, Russia has assembled tens of thousands of troops as well as tanks and artillery near the common border in the region. Moscow also mobilized troops in the annexed Black Sea region of Crimea, which it seized from Ukraine in March 2014.
Speaking to a press conference Thursday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba condemned “the worsening security situation” by the Kremlin and accused Russian experts and officials of “openly threatening Ukraine with war and destruction of the Ukrainian state ”.
“Moscow actions and declarations [are] aimed at escalating military tensions and undermining diplomatic efforts to resolve the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, ”he said.
Kuleba also warned Moscow against any incursion into Ukraine, saying any escalation in the Donbass region, of which Donetsk and Lugansk are part, would have “very painful” consequences for Russia.
“Ukraine’s red line is the state border. If Russia crosses the red line, it will have to suffer, ”he said. “The world is on the side of Ukraine and international law.”
Baltic nations rally around Ukraine
Kuleba’s warning came as the foreign ministers of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia arrived in Ukraine on Thursday morning in solidarity with the growing Russian military.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters that “Ukraine will never be alone”.
“We are with you, we are united,” he declared.
Russia has previously said its troop movements pose no threat and are simply defensive. He also said the military units would stay in position for as long as the Kremlin saw fit.
But the build-up alarmed Ukraine’s allies, prompting NATO to call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to order a withdrawal.
On Wednesday, NATO members Germany and the United States urged Moscow to turn the tide and defuse the situation in the region.
A day earlier, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had urged Russia to end its “unwarranted” military build-up.
Although Kiev has welcomed the displays of Western support, they fall short of Ukraine’s desire to become a full member of NATO – which Moscow opposes.
Moscow blames NATO and the United States
Moscow refused to change course and this week accused NATO and the United States of turning Ukraine into a “powder keg” with increased arms deliveries to the country.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any interference in the Donbass, but Ukraine and several Western countries have said separatist forces in the region have been armed, directed, funded and aided by Russia.
In the first public description of the military build-up on Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow had moved two army units and three parachute units to its western border as part of a major exercise. rapid intended to test combat readiness and respond to what he called. threatening military action by NATO.
Shoigu told state television that the three-week exercise was due to end within the next two weeks.
He also claimed that NATO was deploying 40,000 troops and 15,000 pieces of military equipment near Russia’s borders, mainly in the Black Sea and the Baltic regions. NATO denies making such plans.
Russia has previously accused NATO of destabilizing Europe with its troop reinforcements in the Baltic states and Poland since the annexation of Crimea, which came after an uprising that toppled former Ukrainian president friendly to the Kremlin , Viktor Yanukovych.