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Ukraine Did Not Threaten Russia With a 'Missile Strike'

UKRAINE -- Soldiers take part in an exercise at the Yavoriv military training ground, close to Lviv, September 24, 2021 (AP Photo/Pavlo Palamarchuk)
Maria Zakharova

Maria Zakharova

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman

"We are talking about aggressive statements in the media with threats of a missile strike on Russia and the start of full-scale hostilities."


On October 26, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova claimed in a news briefing that "Ukrainian politicians" had threatened a "missile strike" against Russia.

"We are talking about aggressive statements in the media with threats of a missile strike on Russia and the start of full-scale hostilities," she said.

An expanded statement was later published by the Russian state newswire TASS.

"We urge German and French authorities, who advocate new Normandy format meetings, to assess how the direct threats of Ukrainian politicians against Russia facilitate progress at the negotiations, and urge Ukrainian citizens to contemplate where the aggressive militaristic statements of Ukrainian politicians can lead to," Zakharova said, according to TASS.

This is false. No Ukrainian politician made "direct threats" against Russia, using missiles or otherwise.

Zakharova's remarks responded to comments made by Alexey Arestovich, who is Ukraine's speaker for the delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group. The group is working to resolve the armed conflict with Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine's Donbass region on their border.

In an October 24 interview with the Dom TV channel, Arestovich was asked how likely it was that Ukraine would join the NATO defense alliance. Arestovich pointed out that while Ukraine was no closer to NATO membership at the moment, NATO forces were in Ukrainian territory conducting joint military exercises.

Arestovich noted that the increased presence of NATO troops and the exercises were a direct response to Russian aggression against Ukraine since 2014, when Russian-backed forces occupied the Crimean Peninsula and part of Donbass.

The interviewer then asked: "(Russian President Vladimir) Putin has once again expressed fears that NATO bases will be built in Ukraine under the guise of training centers and missiles will be sent to Moscow. What can you say about this?"

Arestovich responded:

"Putin will play to the point that Ukrainian missiles will be directed at Moscow in some foreseeable future for one simple reason — that we are working on a missile program. And our missiles of the operational-tactical level will be able to reach Moscow.

"These are parity actions in response to Russia's actions. Had it not been for this aggression, Ukrainian missiles would never have been directed at Moscow."

So, Arestovich's claim is that Ukraine's development of long-range conventional missiles is a defensive action in response to Russia's actions, not a threat. Furthermore, Arestovich expressed doubt that missiles would ever be used.

When asked about the possibility of a full-scale Russian attack, he responded that it was unlikely, and that negotiations were the way to go: "An ordinary bluff, which is to scare us and make us move in relation to Russian wishes. But in two years, they were convinced that it was unrealistic. Neither frontal pressure, nor international pressure, nor attempts to intimidate will lead to anything."

"The best thing that can be done is to negotiate with each other using the Normandy and Minsk formats," he said, referring to the ongoing peace negotiations.

But Zakharova ignored all that.

Given the context of Arestovich's words, it is clear he was not issuing a "threat."

Rather, he was reflecting on Putin's fears about potential NATO missile bases in Ukraine, and his answers explain that there was never a reason for such fears, nor any significant NATO presence in Ukraine, until Russia's military aggressions starting in 2014.