NATO has been fighting a war with Russia on Ukrainian territory, Sergey Kiriyenko, the first deputy chief of the Russian presidential staff, said Wednesday.
Kiriyenko, whose comments were reported by the Russian state-owned news agency TASS, alleged during the opening ceremony of the Digoria forum for young political scientists that the West was conducting a “hot military operation” against Russia.
“We understand very well that on the territory of Ukraine we are not at war with Ukraine and, of course, not with Ukrainians,” TASS quoted him as saying. “The entire NATO bloc is fighting a war against Russia, on the territory of Ukraine and by the Ukrainians’ hands.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has shied from calling his attack on Ukraine a war, instead referring to it as a “special military operation.” He also has not announced any definitive plans to bring the conflict beyond Ukraine’s borders or declare war against NATO, a defensive military alliance with 30 member nations.
Still, Putin warned in recent months that any countries that “create a strategic threat to Russia” during the Ukraine offensive can expect “retaliatory strikes” that would be “lightning-fast.”
Some NATO countries have sent Ukraine weapons and other military aid. U.S.-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) have gained attention in recent weeks as Ukraine’s armed forces reported strings of successful strikes on Russian targets.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned in a Russian state-television interview in April that with the West arming Ukraine, “NATO is essentially going to war with Russia through a proxy and arming that proxy,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
Kiriyenko also accused the Ukrainian leadership Wednesday of allowing their country and people to become a proxy of NATO, TASS reported.
“They provided the territory of Ukraine and the people of Ukraine in an attempt to build a fundamental confrontation between the Western community against Russia on that territory,” he said. “Of course, NATO will be eagerly fighting, as they themselves do not hesitate to declare, against Russia to the last Ukrainian and without a trace of remorse.”
Since the start of the war, Russian state television has suggested that the country is ready for a direct confrontation with NATO. But U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in May that he believes an attack against the alliance is a risk Putin might not be willing to take.
“If Russia decides to attack any nation that’s a NATO member, then that’s a game changer,” Austin said while testifying before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense alongside Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley.
“But if you look at Putin’s calculus, my view—and I’m sure the chairman has his own view—but my view is that Russia doesn’t want to take on the NATO alliance.”
Newsweek reached out to the Kremlin and NATO for comment.
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