The Kremlin on Friday denied a statement by NATO suggesting Russia was building up troops on the frontier with Ukraine but said Moscow had brought in more border guards because of security concerns.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday that at least a few thousand more Russian troops were now at the frontier, and called it a regrettable step backwards following an earlier withdrawal from the border.
‘I can confirm that we now see a new Russian military buildup along the Ukrainian border. At least a few thousand more Russian troops are now deployed to the Ukrainian border. We see troop manoeuvres in the neighbourhood of Ukraine. Of course, I have to say that if they are deployed to seal the border and stop the flow of weapons and equipment from Russia into Ukraine, it would be a positive step. But I also have to say that’s not exactly what we are seeing. So I consider this a very regrettable step backwards. It seems that Russia keeps the option open to intervene further into Ukraine,’ Mr Rasmussen said at Chatham House, London on June, 19.
In his turn, Yuri Ushakov, President Vladimir Putin‘s foreign policy adviser, told reporters there had been no buildup.
He said Russia was concerned about security at the border and added: ‘This means just the border guards are getting a few reinforcements, and troops have been withdrawn.’
After Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in March, NATO said Russia had massed some 40,000 troops near the Ukrainian border. It withdrew the vast majority of them until just one unit and 1,000 troops remained about a week ago.
Ushakov said Putin had informed French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel of this by telephone, adding that the three leaders would hold another three-way call soon. He said Putin also planned another phone call with U.S. President Barack Obama but gave no details.
Putin spoke on Thursday with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who is trying to win support for peace proposals to end an uprising by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.