Ukrainian leader has been warned to tread carefully in his dealings with the Russian president
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky should avoid direct discussions with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, Kiev's former prime minister has advised, amid flaring tensions between the two states.
Speaking as part of an appearance at the Kiev Security Forum, which was broadcast by the YouTube channel Open Ukraine on Wednesday, Arseny Yatsenyuk said that "the best way to deter Russia is to stay strong and be united, both domestically and internationally."
"I am not criticizing Zelensky, but I would advise him not to have any separate negotiations with Putin," he weighed in, adding that the Ukrainian president "can talk to Putin only when accompanied by our allies - the US and the EU."
Otherwise, Yatsenyuk warned that if Zelensky goes head-to-head with Putin, the Russian leader "will eat him for breakfast."
The Ukrainian politician also slammed the fact the West was holding security guarantees with Russia as "nonsense," and instead called for the need to impose tough sanctions on the country and its leader.
Yatsenyuk also insisted that Kiev must receive lethal defensive weapons "to deter and stop" Moscow.
The broadside from Ukraine's former prime minister comes amid heightened hostilities between the two Eastern European states. On Wednesday, Russian diplomats and representatives from NATO met in Brussels to discuss security concerns on the European continent, in which Kiev was one of the main focus points.
Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of the US-led military bloc, made it clear that NATO was not prepared to compromise on what it considers to be its core values in order to meet Russia's demands.
Last month, Moscow requested written assurances that Ukraine will not be admitted as a member of the bloc. According to the NATO chief, "only Ukraine and 30 allies can decide when Ukraine becomes a member ... Russia does not have a veto."
Tensions on the Russian-Ukrainian border have escalated in recent months. In December, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov warned that "the probability of hostilities in Ukraine is still high" when asked by reporters about the likelihood of a war in the country's east.
At the end of November, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that in Ukraine, "more and more forces and equipment are being accumulated on the line of contact in the Donbas, supported by an increasing number of Western instructors." The top diplomat also accused Western states of spurring on officials in Kiev to engage in anti-Russian provocations, which he cautioned could "turn into military adventures."