PARIS (Reuters) – France’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that if Moscow recognised two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent it would be an “attack without weapons”.
Russia’s lower house of parliament voted earlier on Tuesday to ask President Vladimir Putin to recognise the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, in the area known as the Donbass, where separatist forces have been fighting the Ukrainian army since 2014.
“If this were applied then it would be an impossible situation and would be a sort of attack without weapons. It would be in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a parliamentary hearing.
France, alongside Germany, Russia and Ukraine, form the so-called Normandy group, which was created to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The conflict is part of a wider crisis, with the United States warning that Russia may attack Ukraine at any time with a force of more than 100,000 troops massed near its borders. Russia denies any such plan and accuses the West of hysteria.
The Kremlin said on Tuesday some of its troops were returning to base after exercises near Ukraine and it mocked Western warnings about a looming invasion, but NATO and the United States said they had yet to see any evidence of a de-escalation that could avert war.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Mark Heinrich)