The United States and European allies are “discussing concerns” about Russia’s reported military buildup on the border of Ukraine, a senior State Department official said in a warning to Moscow.
“We’re absolutely concerned by recent escalations of Russian aggressive and provocative actions in eastern Ukraine, including violations of the July 2020 ceasefire,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Thursday. “Additionally, we are aware of Ukrainian military reports concerning Russian troop movements on Ukraine’s borders. We are discussing our concerns about that increase in tensions and ceasefire violations and regional tensions with NATO allies.”
Price blamed Russia for the deaths of four Ukrainian soldiers last week, whereas Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov raised the specter of “new war” in eastern Ukraine due to ceasefire violations that Moscow attributes to Ukrainian forces. Russian officials deny invading Ukraine, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s previous admission that he had ordered such an operation, and maintain that Ukrainian officials need not fear the movement of Russian troops to the Ukrainian border.
“The Russian Federation transfers the Armed Forces on its soil as it wants to,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, per state media. “This should not concern anyone and this is not posing any threat to anrgyone.”
The buildup spurred a meeting of diplomats from across the NATO alliance. “Allies shared their concerns about Russia’s recent large-scale military activities in and around Ukraine,” a NATO official told Reuters. “Russia’s destabilizing actions undermine efforts to deescalate tensions,”
Ukraine and Russia have been locked in a conflict since 2014, when unmarked Russian forces rolled over the border into Crimea as Putin and other Russian officials denied their involvement. That claim was an apparent effort to induce Ukraine’s U.S. and European partners from responding efficiently, but Putin admitted to the ruse during a 2015 documentary on the operation.
“I gave orders to the Defense Ministry —why hide it? — to deploy special forces of the GRU [military intelligence], as well as marines and commandos there under the guise of reinforcing security for our military facilities in Crimea,” Putin said.
Peskov reverted Thursday to the previous posture of denying military involvement in Ukraine.
“As for the participation of Russian troops in the armed conflict on Ukraine’s soil, the Russian troops have never taken part in it and are not participating now,” Peskov said. “And we, the European countries and all world states, would not like the civil war in Ukraine as a result of provocations and provocative steps by Ukraine’s military to flare up again.”
Russian forces are amassing on the border on a scale that Ukrainian officials suggest could portend a major assault. “Moscow must stop fueling the military frenzy and immediately and explicitly confirm its commitment to a diplomatic settlement and ceasefire,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Thursday.