By Euronews Brussels bureau  Western countries are on edge as they see with great alarm how Russia...
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Ukraine hits back at Russia’s ‘act of aggression’ 

By Euronews Brussels bureau 

Western countries are on edge as they see with great alarm how Russia piles up military forces alongside the Ukrainian border.

The unusually large military build-up has raised all the alarms in Washington, Brussels, Kyiv and beyond. Many fear President Vladimir Putin is planning an all-out invasion to finish what he started in the 2014 annexation of Crimea. The deployment coincides with a monthslong hybrid war that Belarus has been waging against the European Union and that Putin is accused of encouraging.

"All of these factors are connected, and we understand that this is a hybrid attack on the European Union, on Ukraine," Denys Shmyhal, Ukraine's Prime Minister, told Euronews this week.

"These are all absolutely connected factors which lead to the aggression from the Russian side, which lead to the using of energy [supplies] against Europe and against Ukraine's European inspirations."

Shmyhal said more than 100,000 Russian soldiers are stationed in the border area and this time around troops are being trained "for attack in action, not for protection". The Kremlin has dismissed invasion fears as overblown.

"Now the situation is more tough," Shmyhal told us.

"From our point of view, this [brings] destabilisation inside Ukraine to stop the Ukrainian European integration path. But also it's bringing destabilisation inside of Europe because of this migration crisis, because of this energy crisis, because of these cyberattacks."

Shmyhal was on an official visit to Brussels, alongside his Moldovan and Georgian counterparts. The three Eastern countries are pushing for closer ties with the EU that would lay the foundations for eventual membership.

"Our societies in Ukraine and Georgia and Moldova are waiting not for the association, but for integration with the European Union," he said.

"This is the main priority for Ukrainian society. So we are hoping we are making all the best," he added, listing a series of reforms the country has undergone to approach European standards, including in the fight against corruption and in the field of education.

The Prime Minister also offered to provide the bloc with an extra "cheaper" 55 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year to mitigate the persisting energy crunch.

"As a next step, it should be integrated into the European Union."

Despite countless meetings and verbal promises, EU membership remains an elusive prospect for the five official candidates – Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey – and the evident lack of political appetite casts doubt over any other nation's desire to join the 27-strong club.

Nevertheless, Ukraine insists its future is European – and also transatlantic. Deepening ties with NATO is another high priority for the country in the face of Russia's "act of aggression".

"For us, the presence of NATO in the Black Sea region is a factor of security and safety and support to Ukraine and countries of the region, so it's our point of view now," Shmyhal said.

So far, the diplomatic outreach has paid off: NATO, Brussels and Washigton have thrown their total support behind Kyiv. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken threatened Moscow with heavy economic sanctions if President Putin goes ahead with the invasion, insisting that "diplomacy is the only responsible way to resolve this potential crisis".



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