NATO says Russia massing troops at Ukraine border
A top NATO commander said Russia had built up a large force on Ukraine’s eastern border
NATO’s top military commander said on Sunday that Russia was massing troops on Ukraine’s eastern border, adding that Moscow may be eyeing a further move towards a separatist Russian-speaking region after it annexed Crimea.
NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, voiced concern about Moscow using a tactic of snap military exercises to prepare its forces for possible rapid incursions into a neighboring state, according to Reuters.
Breedlove was referring to Moldova’s Transnistria region, which lies on Ukraine’s western border, and is just a few hundred kilometers from Crimea.
The commander said the Russian tactic should lead the 28-nation Western military alliance to rethink the positioning and readiness of its forces in Eastern Europe in order to be ready to counter Moscow’s moves.
“A snap exercise puts an incredible force at a border. The force that is at the Ukrainian border now to the east is very, very sizeable and very, very ready,” he said, in statements carried by Reuters.
“You cannot defend against that if you are not there to defend against it. So I think we need to think about our allies, the positioning of our forces in the alliance and the readiness of those forces ... such that we can be there to defend against it if required, especially in the Baltics and other places.”
He voiced concern that Russia could have Transnistria in its sights after Crimea, saying that, in Russia’s view, the separatist region of Moldova was the “next place where Russian-speaking people may need to be incorporated.”
Russia has denied the claims saying troops present along the Ukrainian border do not threaten the security of neighboring states.
“The Russian defense ministry is observing all the international agreements on limiting the numbers of troops in regions bordering Ukraine,” Russia’s deputy defense minister Anatoly Antonov told journalists, cited by the Interfax news agency.
“Russia’s armed forces are not carrying out any unannounced military activity that could threaten the security of neighboring states,” Antonov added.
Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council chief Andriy Parubiy warned Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was ready to attack Ukraine with “troops massed at the border.”
Antonov said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has discussed Russian troop activities on the Ukraine border with U.S. and Ukrainian counterparts Chuck Hagel and Igor Tenyukh.
“Sergei Shoigu absolutely clearly and unambiguously informed all those he talked to about the real position on the Russian-Ukrainian border and the lack of any intentions to concentrate forces there,” he added.
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