By Mick Krever, CNN
Russia will not invade Ukraine, Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.
“Russia has no plans to intervene militarily, no plans to invade anybody – not Ukraine, not any other country; or to annex anything.”
Amanpour asked the ambassador whether Russian would also stay out of Transnistria, the breakaway state - recognized by no sovereign nation – sandwiched in between Moldova and Ukraine.
Authorities in Transnistria asked Russia to recognize the enclave as a sovereign independent state on Wednesday.
“Hysteria is becoming contagious,” Chizhov said. “It’s not Russia’s intention to annex Transnistria or any other territory in any other place of the world.”
Pro-Russian militants appeared to tighten their grip on Ukraine's eastern town of Slovyansk on Wednesday as Ukrainian military forces massed nearby in an uneasy standoff.
In Donetsk, six armored vehicles sent into the nearby city of Kramatorsk in the morning later showed up carrying Russian flags in Slovyansk.
Ukraine's Defense Ministry said the vehicles had been seized by militants after they were "blocked by local residents, including representatives of Russian labeled subversive and terrorist groups."
Chizhov said that Ukraine had “bungled” the operation in eastern Ukraine, and said that it was in “full contravention to the Ukrainian constitution” – a charge very similar to the one levied against the referendum that led up to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
“You do not calm a popular protest by sending troops, by declaring an anti-terrorist operation,” Chizhov said. “Of course Russia doesn’t mind Ukraine having good relations with the European Union.”
Amanpour challenged Chizhov on the eastern Ukrainian protests.
“Why are you not trying to deescalate the tensions there? Why are we seeing pro-Russian separatists taking over buildings – again, that would be in violation of law – why are they doing that, and why aren’t you stopping it?”
“They are doing that out of desperation, I suppose,” Chizhov said. “Because those who have taken power in Kiev, they have not been listening to the demands, to the requests of people in the eastern part of the country.”
“And those people, they did not see the government in Ukraine as somebody representing their views, their interests. So they didn’t have any other choice.”
Russia is “keenly interested” in deescalating tensions, Chizhov said, adding that the conflict cannot be solved “through use of force.”
The Russian foreign minister is due to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Geneva on Thursday.