Image copyright AFP Image caption Serhiy Haiduk said Russians were bluffing as Russia remains flexing its military muscle
Image copyright Vadim Loshkin / AP Image caption He added the coup was in ruins, saying it was “unarguable”
The Ukrainian defence minister has warned Moscow’s intervention in Syria risked provoking a “bloody massacre” on the country’s territory.
Serhiy Haiduk was speaking in Crimea, where thousands of Ukrainians are among tens of thousands of citizens, according to official figures, who are showing solidarity with their kin in Russia-occupied parts of Ukraine.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
“We don’t want to have a bloody massacre of our citizens on the territory of our country,” Haiduk said.
Fighting in the east of Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces has continued unabated since a ceasefire was signed in September 2015.
Some 20,000 people have been killed since the conflict flared up five years ago.
Haiduk added the area in which the majority of the estimated 80,000 Ukrainian-Russians living in the occupied Crimea were now trapped would be the most vulnerable.
“This is where the bleeding is most intense, where there are worst suffering of civilians,” he said, according to Ukraine’s National Portrait Fund, which was broadcasting the video.
‘Makes them feel like a threat’
The defence minister went on to stress the need for people in Crimea to “prepare for the worst”.
“In case there is a Russian army on our territories, you can prepare for any eventuality,” he said.
“The unity, solidarity and connection between people in Crimea is very important. It can be the only key to keeping hope alive. That is why Crimea must be absolutely free of Russian forces.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was this week in Ukraine for discussions, which Ukraine’s defence minister described as “friendly and accurate”.
He said there was “no need for panic” after the ministers had met and found “there were no specific plans to extend and intensify [Russia’s] military action”.
Lavrov has also reportedly said there would be no invasion of Ukraine.
But Haiduk warned that the presence of Russian troops in Syria was further exacerbating tensions.
He added that Russian military instructors were involved in the continued hostilities in Ukraine and that if Russia made good on its threat to invade Ukraine again, there would be no reason for that.
“We do not consider ourselves part of the European Union and Nato,” he said.
“We already feel threatened all the time, so what are we supposed to do when we [have the Russians] on our borders?”
Image copyright Tim Clark Image caption The World Cup has been a factor in Crimea’s desire to be closer to Russia
The president of the Crimea – which hosts the soccer World Cup this month – said this week that his people would not be “helpless”.
“Like me, they want to stay part of Russia,” Sergei Aksyonov was quoted as saying by the Gazeta.ru website.
Russia has built new roads and bridges for its visitors, as well as hosting concerts and even a special edition of Red Square history books that read “Crimea is part of Russia”.
Ukrainian soldiers were sent to Ukraine to protect the peninsula when it was part of the former Soviet Union after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
They were transferred back in 1998 – Russia sent troops to take over the peninsula two years later.