President Vladimir Putin has warned the US-led Nato alliance not to intervene in the conflict in Ukraine and deploy troops or weapons there.
The warning came in an interview broadcast on Friday, ahead of a summit of Nato leaders in Brussels this month.
The comments echoed Putin’s comments earlier this week during a visit to Iran, where he repeated his longstanding threat to cut off the fuel supplies to Europe in retaliation against further US sanctions.
They raised further questions about the future of the 2015 Minsk peace agreement – brokered by Germany and France – which has so far failed to stop a conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people.
Putin is also scheduled to meet the US president, Donald Trump, at the Nato summit, where the two are expected to discuss differences over Russia’s involvement in Ukraine.
Speaking to the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger in an interview conducted in late July, Putin said Nato was deliberately trying to break the Minsk agreement in Ukraine.
“Do you want to act against Ukraine?” asked Putin, according to the newspaper. “Then Nato will threaten Moscow. So they will deploy troops or even heavy weapons. Russia, with a significant army and nuclear weapons, will not permit this.”
Russian troops, blamed by Kiev and the west for exacerbating the war in eastern Ukraine, are not part of the Minsk agreement but Moscow is one of its signatories.
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Putin said military intervention would be possible under the guise of a peacekeeping mission, but that Nato had not sought permission to do so in recent years.
“That’s why my advice to you is not to employ this type of methods in Ukraine,” Putin told Tages-Anzeiger. “Russia will avoid that for a long time.”
He also said he was open to the possibility of reestablishing diplomatic relations with the US and made clear he would not favour additional sanctions over Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
“When the economic sanctions were imposed after the coup d’etat in Ukraine, a change of administration in Washington was applied to increase the level of sanctions,” Putin said. “If you want to overcome this economic crisis, then it’s natural for us to maintain dialogue.”