The Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg called for calm on Wednesday as tensions between Russia and Ukraine continued to rise. Russian President Vladamir Putin warned of a civil war within Ukraine, but Norwegian experts said Russia is looking for an excuse to officially enter the country.
Ukrainian authorities said heavily armed, well-trained Russian soldiers had entered the country, and outside the city of Kramatorsk some pro-Russian Ukrainian soldiers had switched sides. “There are many signs that indicate the same activity as in the Crimean Peninsula, therefore it’s important that all parties calm down,” Solberg, of the Conservative (Høyre) party told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
“I think it is very important that we are in line with the other countries here, and underline that its is unacceptable to break the law as they did in the Crimea,” Solberg said. “To set up 40,000 soldiers on the border with Ukraine, as Russia has done now, exerts undue pressure on another country in an unstable situation. Russia is deeply involved in much of what’s happening in Ukraine, and should therefore show restraint.
NRK reported Russia has denied any knowledge of Russian troops on Ukrainian soil, just as they did ahead of the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula a month ago. The Kremlin stated Ukrainian authorities had violated the constitution by suppressing protests in the east. In a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin said Ukraine’s economy had to be stabilized and Russia gas exports to Europe must continue.
Professor Pål Kolstø at the University of Oslo said when Putin warned of a civil war in Ukraine, he was seeking an escalation of the violence as a pretext for entering the country. “Even though we do not know specifically what Putin wants to do, he is looking for some kind of confrontation, but not for his people to be the first to start it,” he said.
Russia, Ukraine, the EU and the US will meet in Geneva for talks on Thursday.