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Ukraine 'not seeking war,' but will defend nation, foreign minister says at Pentagon meeting

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's minister of foreign affairs, appeared at the Pentagon alongside U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

February 22, 2022 3:45pm

Updated: February 22, 2022 3:51pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin's most recent actions in eastern Ukraine are meant not to recognize new regions, but to dismantle the entire country, a top Ukrainian official said Tuesday at the Pentagon.

"Yesterday's address by President Putin was not about the recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk; it was about the destruction of the Ukrainian statehood," said Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's minister of foreign affairs.

Kulena made his comments while appearing alongside U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, in the wake of Russia sending troops into the would-be breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Putin sent in the troops ostensibly on a "peacekeeping" mission, shortly after announcing that Russia recognized the regions as independent states.

The move to recognize the two regions threatens international stability on many levels, Austin indicated.

"That violates international law and Russia's own international commitments, and it directly undermines Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Austin said.

Kulena noted that he is visiting the United States as part of a diplomatic mission. 

"My message is simple," he said.  "A strong Ukraine is the best deterrence of Russia. And we are a peaceful nation.  We never attacked anyone.  We are not seeking war.  We want to find solutions through diplomacy."

But, he added, " if the war is imposed on us by President Putin, we will be defending ourselves and we will be more than grateful for all the assistance that you can provide to us in that regard."

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