Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Tuesday that Russia was prepared to take military steps in response to “unfriendly” Western actions over the Ukraine conflict, in a sharp escalation of rhetoric.
He also called for “serious negotiations” on Russian security demands put to the United States and NATO during his first call with new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who in turn called for “de-escalation”.
The Russian president has for weeks accused the United States and the Washington-led NATO military alliance of stoking tensions near Moscow’s borders, but these were his first comments hinting at potential conflict.
Putin told defence ministry officials that if the West continued its “obviously aggressive stance” Russia would take “appropriate retaliatory military-technical measures”.
Russia “will react toughly to unfriendly steps”, he said, adding that he wanted to underscore that “we have every right to do so”.
The United States has been sounding the alarm since mid-November that Moscow could be planning a large-scale attack on its ex-Soviet neighbour Ukraine and has warned Putin of unprecedented sanctions.
Western governments have accused Moscow of amassing some 100,000 troops near its border with eastern Ukraine, where Kiev has been fighting pro-Russia separatists since 2014.