MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday sternly warned NATO against deploying troops and weapons to Ukraine, saying it was a red line for Russia and would provoke a strong response.
Commenting on Western concerns about Russia’s intentions to invade Ukraine, he said that Moscow is equally worried about NATO exercises near its borders.
Speak to participants in an online investment forum. The Russian president said that NATO’s eastward expansion threatened Moscow’s core security interests. He expressed concern that NATO could eventually use Ukrainian territory to deploy missiles capable of reaching Russian command centers in as little as five minutes.
“The appearance of such threats represents a ‘red line’ for us,” Putin said. “I hope that a common sense and responsibility towards their countries and the global community will eventually prevail.”
He added that Moscow has been forced to counter the growing threat by developing new hypersonic weapons.
“What should we do?” Putin said. “We’re going to need to develop something like that to target those who threaten us. And we can do that even now.”
He said a new hypersonic missile that will enter service with the Russian navy early next year will be able to reach targets in about the same time.
“It only takes five minutes to reach the people who give orders,” Putin said.
The Zircon supersonic cruise missile, which is capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound to a range of 1,000 kilometers, has undergone a series of tests, most recently on Monday.
This month, Ukrainian and Western officials expressed concern that Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine could signal Moscow’s plans to invade its former Soviet neighbor. NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday warned Russia that any attempt to further destabilize Ukraine would be an expensive mistake.
The Kremlin insists there is no such intention and accuses Ukraine and its Western supporters of making statements intended to cover up their own alleged aggressive designs.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014 after the country’s Kremlin-friendly president was ousted from power by mass protests and also gave weight to the separatist uprising that broke out in the country. eastern Ukraine.
Earlier this year, an increase in ceasefire violations in the east and a concentration of Russian troops near Ukraine raised fears of war, but tensions eased as Moscow withdrew most of its forces following the drills. in April.
He said that to avoid tension, Russia and the West should negotiate agreements that take into account the security interests of the parties.
The Russian leader noted that Russia was very worried about NATO exercises near its borders, pointing to a recent exercise involving US strategic bombers.
“Strategic bombers, carrying precision weapons and capable of carrying nuclear weapons, have flown almost 20 kilometers to our border,” he said. “That represents a threat to us.”