Ukraine to allies: West must act now to ensure no new Russia military offensive

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Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during an interview with Reuters in Kyiv, Ukraine April 21, 2021. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

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KYIV, April 21 (Reuters) - Ukraine urged Western allies to show they were prepared to punish Moscow with new sanctions, including kicking Russia out of the global SWIFT payments system, to deter the Kremlin from resorting to more military force against Ukraine.

In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said while Kyiv had no new information indicating that Russian President Vladimir Putin had decided to take new military action against Ukraine, it was important for the West to act now to prevent that happening.

Ukraine is trying to shore up international support in its standoff with Moscow over a build-up of Russian troops on its eastern border and in Crimea, which it annexed from Kyiv in 2014.

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"I have no information to state that the decision to launch a military operation against Ukraine has already been taken. So it can go in either direction now," Kuleba said.

"And this is why the reaction of the West, the consolidated reaction of the West, is so important now, to prevent Putin ... from making that decision."

Kyiv and Moscow have traded blame for a collapse in the ceasefire in the eastern Donbass region, where Ukrainian troops have battled Russian-backed forces in a conflict Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people since 2014.


Kuleba said he asked Washington to supply "powerful means of electronic warfare" to counter Russia's capacity to jam Ukrainian communications when he met U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week.

He also revealed he had urged a meeting of European Union foreign ministers on Monday to consider banning Russia from SWIFT as part of a package of new economic sanctions they should be prepared to impose if Russia escalated the situation.

"If Russia decides to launch another wave of its open military aggression against Ukraine, a new round of sectoral sanctions - including for example banning Russia from SWIFT and these kind of things - should be immediately imposed on it," he said.

Western diplomacy had helped restrain Russia but everything "will depend on whether they're ready to ... follow their words with deeds," Kuleba said.

He said Ukraine had not received a response from the Kremlin to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's invitation to Putin on Tuesday for talks in the Donbass conflict zone. read more

Putin on Wednesday warned the West not to cross Russia's "red lines", saying Moscow would respond swiftly and harshly to any provocations. read more

"I read the message of President Putin the following way: 'we will be crossing your red lines, but you are not allowed to cross our red lines, and we will be defining where our red lines are,'" Kuleba said.

Putin was due on Thursday to meet Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has turned to Russia for support amid a wave of protests against his 27-year rule, raising the prospect of closer economic and security ties between the two states.

"The fact is that yes, Belarus is falling deeper and deeper into the orbit of Russia and that poses a threat to our (Ukraine's) national security," Kuleba said.

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Additional reporting by Sergiy Karazy Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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