Saturday, May 25, 2024

Russia summons British, French ambassadors

The UK and French envoys in Moscow were summoned by the Russian Foreign Ministry amid rising tensions over the Ukraine conflict.

The envoys were seen visiting the building housing the ministry in central Moscow separately, but neither the UK’s Nigel Casey nor France’s Pierre Levy offered any comments to the press outside.

Moscow will retaliate against British targets in Ukraine or elsewhere if Kiev uses UK-provided missiles to strike Russian territory, the Foreign Ministry told London’s ambassador on Monday.

Casey was summoned to the ministry following remarks by British Foreign Secretary David Cameron to Reuters that Ukraine has the right to use long-range missiles sent by the UK to strike deep inside Russia. The remark appears to be a policy shift compared to previous claims by Western officials that Kiev is given weapons on the condition that they only be used within what Ukraine claims as its sovereign territory.

”Casey was warned that the response to Ukrainian strikes using British weapons on Russian territory could be any British military facilities and equipment on the territory of Ukraine and beyond,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement following the meeting.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Cameron’s statements to the contrary “de facto recognized his country as a party to the conflict”.

Russia understands Cameron’s comments as “evidence of a serious escalation and confirmation of London’s increasing involvement in military operations on the side of Kiev”, the ministry added.

Casey was urged to “think about the inevitable catastrophic consequences of such hostile steps from London and to immediately refute in the most decisive and unequivocal manner the bellicose provocative statements of the head of the Foreign Office”.

Earlier in the day, the Russian Defense Ministry announced an exercise to test deployment of non-strategic nuclear weapons. President Vladimir Putin ordered the exercise after “provocative statements and threats” by Western officials, the military announced.

Levy was also summoned to the Foreign Ministry. Moscow has not yet disclosed the details of the meeting.

French President Emmanuel Macron has for months been advocating for what he calls “strategic ambiguity” regarding the Ukraine conflict. The idea is to keep the option of deploying NATO troops in Ukraine on the table to prevent a Russian victory. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested in an interview last week that the rhetoric stems from Macron’s wish to use “Russophobic” messages to boost the French position in the EU.

Also on Monday, Berlin announced that it was recalling its ambassador in Moscow, Alexander Lambsdorff, for consultations. The envoy is expected to return to Russia in a week.

The German government attributed the move to claims that Russia’s foreign intelligence service (SVR) was behind a cyber operation to snoop on senior members of the Social Democratic Party of Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other targets in the country. Moscow has described those allegations as baseless.

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