Kremlin: NATO expansion in Ukraine is a ‘red line’ for Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting via video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Sept 27, 2021. (ALEXEI DRUZHININ , SPUTNIK / KREMLIN POOL VIA AP)

MOSCOW – The Kremlin warned on Monday that any expansion of NATO military infrastructure in Ukraine would cross one of President Vladimir Putin's "red lines", and Belarus said it had agreed to take action with Moscow to counter growing NATO activity.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close Moscow ally, accused the United States of setting up training centers in Ukraine which he said amounted to military bases. He said he had discussed the issue with Putin.

President Putin has repeatedly noted the issue of the potential broadening of NATO infrastructure on Ukrainian territory, and (he) has said this would cross those red lines that he has spoken about before.

Kremlin

"It's clear we need to react to this…(We) agreed that we need to take some kind of measures in response," Lukashenko was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency.

ALSO READ: Ukraine president says war with Russia is a worst-case possibility

Ukraine began joint military exercises with US and other NATO member troops last week, while Russia and Belarus held large-scale drills that alarmed the West.

Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, has long sought closer ties with the West and its militaries. It has had fraught relations with Russia since Moscow annexed the Crimea peninsula in 2014 and backed separatists fighting in Ukraine's east.

Russia staunchly opposes the idea of NATO membership for Ukraine. 

READ MORE: Ukrainian president seeks US backing for NATO membership

Asked what joint actions Lukashenko had been referring to, the Kremlin said: "These are actions that ensure the security of the two of our states."

"President Putin has repeatedly noted the issue of the potential broadening of NATO infrastructure on Ukrainian territory, and (he) has said this would cross those red lines that he has spoken about before," the Kremlin said.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba rejected the notion of a Russian "red line" outside of Russia's own borders, and said Kyiv had its own security to think about.

"Putin's 'red lines' are limited to Russia's borders," he tweeted. "On our side of the Ukrainian-Russian border we can figure out ourselves what to do in the interests of the Ukrainian people, as well as Ukraine's and Europe's security."