Ukraine may consider building nuclear weapons to defend itself against Russia if it is not accepted into NATO, its Ambassador to Germany Andriy Melnyk said yesterday.
About 90,000 Russian military personnel have been transferred near the borders with Ukraine, Donbas and in Crimea, the peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Washington and NATO have been alarmed by the large build-up of the troops.
"Either we are part of an alliance like NATO, and we are helping to make Europe stronger so that Europe becomes more confident, or we have only one option - to arm ourselves, perhaps to think again about nuclear status. How else can we guarantee our security?" Melnyk was quoted as saying by Deutschlandfunk radio.
Russia says the build-up is a three-week snap military drill to test combat readiness in response to what it calls threatening behaviour from NATO.
Andrii Taran, Ukrainian defense minister, told European parliamentarians in Brussels that Russia was preparing to potentially store nuclear weapons in Crimea. Citing Kyiv's latest intelligence, he claimed that Russia was massing 110,000 troops on Ukraine's border in 56 battalion-sized tactical groups. It would be the most massive movement of Russian troops since the Second World War.
Defense minister of Russia Sergei Shoigu said NATO was deploying 40,000 troops and 15,000 pieces of military equipment near Russia's borders, mainly in the Black Sea and the Baltic regions. The Western alliance denies any such plans.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on Moscow Tuesday to withdraw its forces from Ukraine. "Russia has moved thousands of combat troops to Ukraine’s borders, the largest massing of Russian troops since the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Over the last days, several Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in eastern Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said. "Russia must end this military build-up in and around Ukraine, stop its provocations and deescalate immediately," he added.