WASHINGTON – The Ukrainian government announced a new security pact with the U.K. and Poland Feb. 17, as the day’s developments upped the ante yet again in the standoff with Russia.

The tie-up is meant to deepen Ukraine’s relationships with the two European nations in matters of cyber security, energy security and countering disinformation, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote in a statement.

Announcement of the pact — which will culminate in a yet-to-be-developed memorandum of understanding — came during a Thursday visit to Kyiv by U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. The British government has sought to play a visibly active role in boosting Ukraine, providing anti-tank weapons to its military in an effort to deter a Russian armor offensive.

“Poland and the UK will continue to provide Ukraine with support, standing in unity with Ukraine in the face of ongoing Russian aggression,” the Ukrainian foreign ministry wrote of the pact.

Meanwhile, events this week darkened hopes for a peaceful resolution, following Russian President Vladimiar Putin’s ominous claim earlier in the week of “genocide” in eastern Ukraine. On Thursday, Russian separatists there reportedly started shelling positions along the front line with Ukraine-controlled territory in an apparent attempt to provoke a similar reaction from the Ukrainians.

Western officials believe Moscow is itching for a war pretext that would justify flowing its forces – estimates range from 100,000-150,000 troops – into Ukraine. Russian officials maintain they have no such plans.

The Russians on Thursday also doubled down on an initial proposal from December that said the United States should pull its troops out of eastern NATO nations, according to a Moscow Times report that cited the state-run TASS news agency. Moscow also demanded that the West drop its military support for Ukraine and withdraw all arms already delivered. Without these concessions, U.S. and NATO offers of discussing missile deployment limitations in Europe would be moot, the Russians warned.

NATO and U.S. officials have dismissed the requests as unrealistic, saying Russia’s neighbors have a right to make their own security decisions.

Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.

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