West is using Ukraine to try to break up Russia - Defence Minister Shoigu
LONDON (Reuters) - Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu accused the West on Thursday of using Ukraine to try to break up Russia, the world's largest country by territory, but he said any such attempt would fail.
Shoigu, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, made the comments in a congratulatory message to the armed forces at a concert in central Moscow to mark Russia's "Defender of the Fatherland" public holiday.
"Using Ukraine, the collective West is seeking to dismember Russia, to deprive it of its independence. These attempts are doomed to fail," Shoigu said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.
His comments echoed similar statements from Putin and chime with the Kremlin's preferred narrative which portrays Moscow's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year as a pre-emptive strike that was essential to protect Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine and Russia's own national security.
Kyiv and its Western backers cast the war as an unprovoked colonial-style land grab. Ukraine has vowed to retake all of its territory but not to go beyond its own borders into Russia itself.
(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Gareth Jones)