Sep 13, 2021
Speaker of the Russian State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin warned EU leaders should pay attention to the ongoing row between Russia and Ukraine as Europeans would be dragged into a full-scale conflict with Moscow.
The warning came in response to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s remarks last week about a war between Ukraine and Russia being possible, in response to reporter’s questions at a YES Brainstorming forum.
Mr Zelensky added the conflict would be “the biggest mistake for Russia primarily”.
He argued Russians and Ukrainians have become enemies with a huge gap lying between them now.
But Mr Volodin warned the Ukrainian President’s comments could only serve as a means for tensions to escalate as he urged EU leaders to remain vigil.
He said: “Does the leadership of European countries understand that these remarks by Zelensky are very dangerous to their nations? European Union leaders should pay attention to what’s happening in Ukraine. If they don’t want Europeans to be dragged into a full-fledged war.”
He added that Ukrainians and Russians “are one people that became split because of politicians like Zelensky”.
He continued: “We have common history, culture, religion, we are united by the Russian language. Therefore, we need to think about friendship and developing relations rather than about war and gap.”
It comes as Russia used new combat robots and tactical vehicles on the second day of the active main phase of large military drills with its ex-Soviet ally Belarus, the defence ministry said on Saturday.
The “Zapad-2021” war games, which will run until next Thursday on Russia and Belarus’s western flanks, including sites close to the European Union’s borders, have alarmed Ukraine and some NATO countries.
Troops used Platform-M combat robots, which are controlled remotely and armed with grenade launchers and a machine gun, the ministry said in a statement. Russian news agencies said it was the first time such hardware had been used.
New Sarmat-2 tactical vehicles have also been used, Russian media said.
President Vladimir Putin denies the drills are directed against any foreign power and says they are sensible given increased NATO activity near Russia’s borders and those of its allies.
Neighbours such as Ukraine and NATO members Poland and Lithuania say such big exercises so close to the frontier risk being provocative.
“We need to realise that this (a Russian military attack on Estonia) may indeed happen in the coming years,” Martin Herem, commander of the Estonian Defence Forces, said in an interview on Friday evening.
“Russia’s goal likely isn’t to occupy us; it does not want to gain control through occupation, but it enjoys instability and influence via instability,” the BNS news wire quoted him as saying.
The manoeuvres are held every four years, but this year’s drill has been seen as a particular signal of Russia’s support for Belarus and its leader Alexander Lukashenko, who has been ostracised by the West for cracking down on dissent.
Russia sees Belarus as a strategically important buffer to its west, and helped to keep Lukashenko in power with loans and political backing while he crushed a popular uprising last year.