Ukraine calls for unity to deter Russia

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Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov called for global unity to prevent a new Russian "escalation" against Ukraine during a visit to the Pentagon, as Kiev and Washington warn of what they say is unusual Russian military activity.

The US military has so far stopped short of describing Russia's build-up as a preparation for attack. On Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin conceded that "we're not sure exactly what Mr Putin is up to".

Reznikov met Austin at the Pentagon and cautioned about the consequences of any Russian military moves.

"This possible escalation will certainly have catastrophic consequences for the whole of Europe," Reznikov said, according to a Pentagon transcript of a portion of his remarks.

"Whether it will take place depends to a large extent on the unity and determination of the civilised world to stop the aggression."

Austin, who was a four-star army general when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, told Reznikov the Pentagon was closely monitoring Russian movements on Ukraine's borders.

"And we made clear our concerns about Russia's destabilising activities and our desire for more transparency," Austin told him, according to the Pentagon transcript.

Moscow has dismissed such rhetoric as inflammatory and complained about increasing activity in the region by NATO.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday the West was taking Russia's warnings not to cross its "red lines" too lightly and Moscow needed serious security guarantees from the West.

The Kremlin said in September that NATO would overstep a Russian red line if it expanded its military infrastructure in Ukraine, and Moscow has since accused Ukraine and NATO of destabilising behaviour, including in the Black Sea.

In a televised speech, Putin complained that Western strategic bombers carrying "very serious weapons" were flying within 20 kilometres of Russia's borders.

Despite a growing list of disputes, the Kremlin has maintained high-level contacts with Washington and spoken repeatedly of a possible summit between Putin and US President Joe Biden to follow up their initial meeting in Geneva in June, which Putin said had opened up room for an improvement in ties.

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