RUKLA – German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, currently in Lithuania, on Tuesday condemned the Kremlin's decision to recognize the two " people's republics" in eastern Ukraine and station Russian troops in these territories.
She also urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to cancel his decision and get back to the negotiating table.
"We – governments and nations – must not accept this and we clearly condemn Russian action," she said, addressing troops of the international NATO battalion stationed in Lithuania's Rukla.
"This is a violation of sovereign territory of Ukraine and violation of internationally recognized borders. (…) I am strongly appealing to President Putin stop these actions and respect sovereignty of Ukraine and return to the negotiating table," the German minister said.
In her words, there has been huge diplomatic effort over the pats weeks and months, but, unfortunately, it was not enough: "However, diplomacy does not stop there".
Addressing troops from six countries, serving with the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in Lithuania, Lambrecht called them a "pillar of diplomacy".
"Because diplomacy needs a strong backbone, so that we could not be blackmailed, and this backbone is what you are," she said, adding that Russia is clearly acting as n aggressor.
"We don't know how far Russia is prepared to go, but we are vigilant and we are standing strong," Lambrecht said.
Leading the international NATO battalion in Lithuania, German last week deployed additional 350 troops to Lithuania, and Norway, which is also taking part in this military unit, also decided to send additional 60 troops. The UK has also recently sent a small reconnaissance team to Lithuania.
Lithuanian National Defense Minister Arydas Anusauskas underlined the importance of "demonstrating NATO solidarity by sending a clear message to the aggressor".
"Lithuania is ready to ensure the necessary conditions for the stay of Germany and all the allies in Lithuania," the minister said.
Earlier in the day, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the decision to suspend the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project with Russia in response to Moscow's recognition of two pro-Kremlin separatist regions in Ukraine.
EU diplomats are gathering in Brussels for a special meeting later on Tuesday to decide on new sanctions for Russia, with the US also planning to impose sanctions.