Russia’s envoy to Japan has warned of a possibility of “measures involving military technology” if the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) refuses Russia’s demand for Ukraine to be prohibited from joining the military alliance.
In an interview with Japanese media NHK on Monday, Russian ambassador Mikhail Galuzin said that Ukraine joining NATO would intensify the alliance’s military threat to Russian security, and said that Western countries sending huge quantities of weapons to Ukraine could encourage provocative action by Ukrainian forces.
Galuzin denied claims that Russia intends to start a war and reaffirmed the country’s willingness to engage in diplomacy, adding that the more than 100,000 troops Russia has situated along its border with Ukraine were large-scale military exercises that should not be seen as a precursor to military invasion.
“We must have the necessary troops to protect the lives and livelihoods of the people, and we must also provide training,” he said.
But he added, “If NATO rejects our proposal, Russia may take measures involving military technology to ensure its security,” according to a translation by NHK.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky maintained on Monday that it remains Ukraine’s sovereign wish to join NATO. Zelensky told reporters that “there is no signal from us that NATO membership is not our goal.”
His remarks came after Ukrainian Ambassador to Britain Vadym Prystaiko told the BBC that the former Soviet republic could drop its NATO bid to avoid war with Russia.
Prystaiko subsequently clarified his comment, saying that dropping the bid for NATO membership is not an option.
“We are not a member of NATO right now and to avoid war, we are ready for many concessions and that is what we are doing in conversations with the Russians,” Prystaiko said during a separate interview with the BBC. “It has nothing to do with NATO, which is enshrined in the Constitution.”
“It is not a delay to our ambitions to be in NATO; what we are talking about is that we are not in the family now so we have to look for something else like bilateral agreements with the UK, with the United States,” he said. “So on top of NATO, we are looking for some other arrangements which would allow us to survive at this particular ordeal right now.”
Zelensky also declared on Monday that Feb. 16 will be a “Day of Unity” for those in Ukraine, pushing back on reports citing the date as “the day of the attack” amid the predictions of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine is “being intimidated by the great war” with the date of the military invasion being publicly announced, the president said, adding that this is “not the first time.”
“The relevant decree has already been signed. On this day, we will hoist national flags, put on blue and yellow ribbons and show the world our unity,” he said in a statement.
He said the nation’s forces are constantly monitoring the situation and preparing decent responses to all possible scenarios and aggressive actions.
Ukrainian officials said that Zelensky is not predicting an attack on that day, and was responding in sarcasm to the many foreign media reports citing Feb. 16 as the potential date of the invasion.
“It is quite understandable why Ukrainians today are skeptical about various ‘specific dates’ of the so-called ‘start of the invasion’ announced in the media,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky’s chief of staff, said.
Allen Zhong and Reuters contributed to this report.