"Real" risk of escalation in Ukraine-Russia tensions: Dutch Cabinet
The Cabinet still thinks there is a "real" risk that the tense relationship between Ukraine and Russia will escalate, Ministers Wopke Hoekstra (Foreign Affairs) and Kajsa Ollongren (Defense) wrote to parliament. There are no signs yet that Russia is withdrawing troops from its border with Ukraine on a large scale.
The Netherlands has not yet decided on a request for arms assistance from the government in Kyiv. Ukraine has also not yet responded to the Dutch offer to help with cyber defense. Parliament will discuss the situation in the Eastern European country with Hoekstra on Wednesday.
The Netherlands issued negative travel advice for Ukraine on Saturday. The Cabinet urged Netherlands residents to leave the country. 147 Dutch people in Ukraine have now registered at the embassy in Kyiv. It remains unclear how many Dutch people are in the country, as registration with the embassy is not mandatory.
The embassy previously made clear that "no government-organized evacuation will take place" in the event of an escalation, the Ministers said. People would then have to leave the country with their own transport by road. The embassy in Kyiv has been scaled down, and an emergency office has been set up in the western city of Lviv for consular services.
On Tuesday, Russia said several of its military units were withdrawing from the border with Ukraine after completing their military exercises there. The Russian Ministry of Defense published a video showing tanks and other military vehicles leaving Crimea via a railway bridge connecting Crimea to the Russian mainland. The peninsula belonged to Ukraine until Russia occupied and annexed it in 2014.
But NATO has not yet seen Russian troops withdrawing from the Ukrainian border, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said. "So far, we have not seen any de-escalation on the ground," he said before talks with the Defense Ministers of the 30 NATO countries. "What we see is that they have increased the number of troops, and more troops are on the way."
Russia has also not yet responded to NATO proposals to allay Russia's security concerns through mutual openness about exercises and arsenals and through arms control.
The United States previously reported that it had indications that Russia would invade Ukraine on Wednesday. Moscow dismissed such reports as "information terrorism." Kyiv complained about scaremongering. In the West, there are also doubts about credibility. But "we will continue to reveal Russia's plans and actions, to make it more difficult for Russia to act aggressively against Ukraine," Stoltenberg said.
Reporting by ANP.