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The Ukrainian ambassador to the United States warned on Sunday that Russia’s hostility to Ukraine is not limited to any particular conflict between the two countries, but is part of a larger mission against democracy itself.
Amb. Oksana Markarova appeared on CBS ‘”Meet the nation“to discuss Russia’s gathering of an estimated 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine and the growing fear that Moscow is planning an invasion.
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“If Ukraine will be further attacked by Russia, they will obviously not stop after Ukraine,” Markarova said. “That is why it is in the interest of Europe and the whole democratic world to help us defend ourselves, but also to show that the rule of law is still functioning.”
Markarova called Russia the “aggressor” in a war against democracy, which she said began for Ukraine eight years ago with the illegal occupation of Crimea.
“It is an attack on democracy and I think no one is sure if Ukraine will be attacked,” she said.
The ambassador said that Ukraine has defended itself for the last eight years and fought for democracy and its future in Europe.
“We do not want to be part of the Soviet Union or the Russian Empire or the Russian Federation,” Markarova said. “We want to be sovereign. We are sovereign and we fight for our independence.”
While Ukraine has been seeking NATO membership for years, Russia has long resented NATO’s granting membership to countries that were once part of the Soviet Union or were in its sphere of influence as members of the Warsaw Pact.
Russia has demanded that NATO promise never to allow Ukraine to join the alliance, and to stop the deployment of NATO weapons near Russian borders and roll back its forces from Eastern Europe.
Markarova downplayed questions about frictions between the United States and Ukraine over when sanctions should be imposed on Russia and reaffirmed that the United States is its “strategic friend”.
While Markarova said Ukraine believes the basis for sanctions is there now, the US and EU countries have said a Russian invasion would trigger heavy sanctions.
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As warnings from the West about an increase in a possible Russian invasion, the United States last week placed 8,500 troops on increased readiness for deployment should it happen.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not made any public comments on the Western reaction.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.