Two men were arrested and “an explosive device, small arms and ammunition” was seized in the cities of Kharkiv and Zhytomyr.
Ukraine indicated this Tuesday that it had dismantled a group that was acting on Moscow’s orders and was preparing to carry out armed attacks to “destabilize” the country.
“The group’s organizations were preparing a series of armed attacks against infrastructure,” the Ukrainian security service (SBU) said in a statement.
According to the SBU, the group was “coordinated” by “Russian secret services”.
The two organizers, including a Russian, were arrested, said the SBU, whose agents seized “an explosive device, small arms, and ammunition” in Kharkiv, a large city located near the Russian border in the east of the country, and in Zhytomyr. , in central Ukraine, less than 150 kilometers from Kyiv.
The two men were former commandos who participated in the fighting, a police source told France-Presse (AFP) news agency.
Under the guise of looking for security, they “started recruiting” personnel, especially Russians who committed violent crimes, the source added.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of having gathered tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border in preparation for a possible invasion, as well as trying to destabilize the situation inside Ukrainian territory.
Russia carries out military air exercises in border zones
Meanwhile, more than 60 Russian fighter jets and fighter-bombers are participating in missile-firing exercises in southern Russia, the Crimean peninsula, and the regions of Rostov and Krasnodar, near Ukraine, Russian military officials announced today.
Air groups from the Southern Military District and the Black Sea Fleet are moving to operational airfields and rehearsing missile strikes at “the greatest possible distance,” according to a military report cited by Interfax.
The Su-27SM and Su-30SM2 fighter planes, as well as the SU-34 fighter-bombers, participate in these exercises, in which the air units must rehearse maneuvers to protect the airfields from the attacks of an eventual enemy.
According to Alexander Dvornikov, commander of the military forces in southern Russia, it is a joint operation involving the air force and navy of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.
In recent days, Russian authorities had already reported that more than 6,000 soldiers from the southern military district had been placed on alert as part of an exercise to check the units’ combat capability.
These air exercises coincide with the escalation of tensions over the situation in Ukraine, on whose borders, according to the Kyiv government, Russia has already concentrated more than 100,000 troops.
The Kremlin insists that it has no intention of attacking Ukraine and that all troop movements and military activities within Russia’s territory are a matter of sovereignty.
Russian and French presidents will talk about the crisis this week
Russian Presidents Vladimir Putin and French Presidents Emmanuel Macron will speak by phone about the situation in Ukraine before the end of this week.
“By the end of this week, such talks will be held. Preparations are now underway,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told his daily press briefing, quoted by Russian news agency TASS.
On the possibility of Putin and Macron talking about a new summit in the Normandy Format, Peskov said it was necessary to wait for the talks that representatives of Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine will hold on Wednesday in Paris.
“We await the results of their meeting, and they will address the prospects of resuming contacts at various levels,” said the spokesperson.
The French Presidency had previously announced that Macron intended to discuss the tension caused by the situation in Ukraine with Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky in the coming days.
France currently holds the biannual presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU).
The current tension is due to the concentration of large numbers of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine in recent months.
Western countries accuse Russia of intending to re-invade the neighboring country after annexing Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014 and of allegedly sponsoring a conflict in Donbas, eastern Ukraine since then.
Russia denies any plans for an invasion but links a de-escalation of tension to treaties that guarantee that NATO will not expand into former Soviet bloc countries.
The dialogue in the so-called Normandy Format about the war in Donbas was born in 2014, in a meeting on the sidelines of the commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the landing of Allied troops in that region of the French coast during the Second World War (1939-1945).
The last summit of the so-called Normandy Group took place in 2019 in Paris.
Since then, progress has been limited, except for the exchange of prisoners in the context of the war in Donbass.
France and Germany have said they want to revive the Normandy Group, a purpose reaffirmed a week ago in Moscow by the new head of German diplomacy, Annalena Baerbock.
The objective, according to Baerbock, is to lower the climate of tension on the Russian-Ukrainian border and boost the implementation of the Minsk Accords for peace in eastern Ukraine.
When presenting the priorities of the French presidency of the EU Council to the European Parliament, on January 19, Macron defended that Europe should soon adopt a new security order, in articulation with NATO, with a view to relations with Moscow and the de-escalation of current tensions.
“In the coming weeks, we must succeed in carrying out a European proposal to build a new order of security and stability. We must build it among Europeans, then share it with our allies within the framework of NATO, and then propose it to the Russia for negotiation,” Macron said.
source: with agencies