Russia upping military activity to sway EU on sanctions: Poland

17th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Russia has stepped up military activity to pressure EU leaders who are set to consider fresh sanctions against Moscow, Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered massive military manoeuvres on Monday, including the deployment of nearly 40,000 troops in the Arctic.

It also deployed Iskander-M missile batteries to its western Kaliningrad exclave, which borders NATO members Lithuania and Poland, and put airborne divisions in Pskov, near the border with Estonia and Latvia, on high alert.

"Russia is making these kinds of gestures on the eve of the next EU summit on March 19-20 to gain a degree of influence on the decisions of the European Council regarding sanctions," Kopacz told reporters in Warsaw.

Progress on the implementation of the "Minsk II" ceasefire deal between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine will be a determining factor in whether the EU decides to level more sanctions against Moscow.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko slammed the month-old peace deal with pro-Russian rebels as "not working" on Sunday as a pro-government militia member was killed in continuing clashes.

Western nations believe Moscow is orchestrating the separatist push in Ukraine, something the Kremlin firmly denies.

"We've found heightened activity in the Baltic Sea and in Baltic airspace but there is no reason yet to sound the alarm," Kopacz said.

Crimea kicked off celebrations this week to mark one year since a controversial vote that led to Russia's annexation of the peninsula, a historic shift blasted by the West and Ukraine as an illegal takeover.

© 2015 AFP

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