NATO expansionism major source of Russia-Ukraine conflict: Iran lawmaker
A senior Iranian lawmaker said NATO's expansionist approach and provocations towards Eastern Europe are among the root causes of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The Iranian head of Iran-Belarus parliamentary friendship group, Abolfazl Amouei, made the remarks in a Saturday meeting with Belarusian Ambassador to Tehran Dmitry Koltsov.
The Iranian lawmaker also underlined the necessity of solving the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, saying Belarus can play a role in this regard given its strategic position in Eastern Europe.
"Perhaps if it were not for NATO provocations, we would not be witnessing such problems in Ukraine now. In the Islamic Republic's view, political dialogue is the main solution to the problems," he said.
"Given its strategic position in Eastern Europe, Belarus can play a role in resolving issues in Ukraine through diplomacy. Under current circumstances, all countries must make efforts to end this conflict, which is killing innocent people, as soon as possible."
The Belarusian ambassador blamed irresponsible policies of some Western countries for the ongoing developments in Eastern Europe and said his country has always called for the settlement of issues in Ukraine through dialogue.
Negotiations and dialogue are the only ways to achieve lasting peace and security, Koltsov added.
In a televised speech early on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a "special military operation" aimed at “demilitarization” of the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics in eastern Ukraine, collectively known as Donbass.
The regions broke away from Ukraine in 2014 after refusing to recognize a Western-backed Ukrainian government that had overthrown a democratically-elected Russia-friendly administration.
On Saturday, the Kremlin said Ukrainian authorities had refused to hold talks, announcing an order for troops to advance in Ukraine "from all directions".
Reports said Russian troops attacked oil and gas facilities in the Ukrainian town of Vasylkiv southwest of Kiev, sparking huge explosions and setting an oil terminal ablaze.
Photographs and videos posted online showed large flames rising into the sky, with the authorities warning residents to be on alert for toxic fumes.
Pro-Russia separatists in Lugansk said an oil terminal was blown up by a Ukrainian missile in the town of Rovenky.
Western governments prepared new sanctions against Moscow, including banishing key Russian banks from SWIFT, the high-security network that connects financial institutions around the world. An EU diplomat said some 70% of the Russian banking market would be affected.