Comment by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova on upcoming provocations by Kiev in southeast Ukraine
Last week, in a Komsomolskaya Pravda radio interview, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed concern over a military build-up by the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the southeast of the country, and over Kiev’s active preparations for possible military action against the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics. He stated that the Ukrainian authorities are taking these steps with a view to organising armed provocations along the conflict line, and in the Russia-Ukraine border area near Crimea, in order to extend martial law, which expires on 25 December 2018. An extension would allow Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, with his low ratings, to postpone the upcoming presidential election.
On precisely the same day, 17 December, at a meeting with students from the city of Dnipro (formerly Dnepropetrovsk), Petro Poroshenko confirmed the additional deployment of several Ukrainian military units in the Donbass. Kiev is no longer hiding its aggressive intentions. Every day we see news of increased Ukrainian military activity along the entire conflict line in the Donbass, especially around Mariupol and Gorlovka. It is possible that in the coming days, the Ukrainian army will progress to full-scale hostilities.
Meanwhile, we see that Kiev is considering other options for inflaming the situation in the region and extending martial law. We are deeply concerned about claims in Ukrainian media coming from so-called “experts” about the possible use of chemical weapons by armed units of the Lugansk and Donetsk People's Republics. We recall a statement from Irina Friz, head of Ukraine’s permanent delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, on "the development by Russia of chemical and biological weapons for future use against Ukraine". This circumstance suggests that Kiev strategists have thoroughly studied and are ready to put into practice the experience of their foreign overseers, in organising provocations with the use of weapons of mass destruction.
We also note that a few days ago, Major General Volodymyr Rapko, head of the Ukrainian General Staff’s Main Directorate for Communications and Information Systems, announced the transition of cyber-security units to combat readiness. For such a high-ranking figure in the Ukrainian military to be ratcheting up this issue, suggests the possibility of cyber provocations. Representatives of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (stationed in Tallinn, Estonia) and members of the British army’s 77th Brigade, which specialises in psychological and information warfare, are likely to provide advice and practical assistance to Ukraine to accomplish such an operation. All of this is consistent with the political trajectory of Ukraine’s leadership, aimed at escalating tensions with Russia through artificial means, just as the election campaign gets going.