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Larger army doesn’t mean war is imminent: Ukrainian president

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gives a press conference at the end of an EU-Ukraine Summit at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, October 6, 2020. Stephanie Lecocq/Pool via REUTERS

On Tuesday, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed a decree increasing the size of Ukraine’s armed forces by 100,000 troops over three years and raising soldiers’ salaries, but he stressed that this did not mean the country was about to go to war with Russia.

What Zelenskiy said:  In a speech to parliament, he asked legislators to remain calm and united, rather than sow panic and take advantage of the conflict with Russia for political gain.

  • Despite the fact that Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops along Ukraine’s borders, Zelenskiy has repeatedly rebuffed U.S. and NATO allies’ warnings that Russia may strike Ukraine at any time.
  • He was speaking as he prepared to host the prime leaders of the United Kingdom, Poland, and the Netherlands, all NATO members, in an effort to ease tensions with Russia and bolster international support for Kyiv.
  • “This decree (was prepared) not because we will soon have a war… but so that soon and in the future there will be peace in Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said.
  • “We must be united in domestic politics. You can be in opposition to the government, but you can’t be in opposition to Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said.
  • “You can despise … the government, the president, but you can’t despise your own people, sow panic in order to reap political gains, keep people in a state of alarm.”

What’s going on: In recent weeks, NATO member states have rallied with Ukraine, with the United States, the United Kingdom, and Poland among those providing military assistance and advocating for strong sanctions against Russia if it attacks.

  • Moscow has rejected any ambitions to invade Ukraine, but it has demanded broad security guarantees from the West, including a guarantee that Kyiv will never be admitted to NATO.
  • On his visit to Kyiv, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will pledge to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty.
  • Following Zelenskiy’s speech, MPs gathered in the chamber’s well, clutching flags of countries that had expressed support, including the United Kingdom and Canada.
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