US President Joe Biden has risked further destabilising the Russia-Ukraine crisis with his harsh warning to Moscow, the Kremlin said.
On Wednesday, Biden told reporters at the White House: “Russia will be held accountable if it invades – and it depends on what it does … It is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine.”
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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday the comments “in no way contribute to defusing the tension that has now arisen in Europe”.
“Moreover, [they] can contribute to the destabilisation of the situation,” he told reporters on a conference call.
Washington and its Western allies have repeatedly threatened sweeping economic and political sanctions on Russia should it invade Ukraine.
Moscow denies such plans and blames the deteriorating security situation on NATO and the US.
It has warned of an unspecified military-technical response if the West does not take its security demands seriously, claiming that complying with the measures will defuse the crisis.
Among its proposals, many of which are considered non-starters by the West, is a call for the Washington-led NATO military alliance to end military activity in Eastern Europe and Ukraine and never embrace the former Soviet republic as a new member.
Talks last week aimed at easing the crisis failed to produce a breakthrough, prompting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to begin a whistle-stop diplomatic tour of Europe on Wednesday.
After meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Wednesday, he is holding talks in Berlin on Thursday with officials from the TransAtlantic Quad group – which includes Germany, France and the United Kingdom. He will meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Geneva on Friday.
Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Kyiv, said Blinken would be trying to find “common ground” with Washington’s European allies over how to respond to Moscow.
“Ukraine has made it clear that everybody has to be united if there is to be some sort of deterrence … against Russia,” she said.
“But Europe doesn’t have an appetite to get involved beyond a certain point when it comes to this and certainly boots on the ground, whether from NATO or the US, is out of the question at this point.”
On Wednesday, while meeting with Zelenskyy, Blinken warned that Ukraine was facing an “unprecedented threat” with Russia ready to attack on “very short notice”.
In 2014, Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backed separatist forces who took control of large parts of the country’s east – territories they continue to hold.