On the border with Ukraine: Russian troop deployment worries NATO

On the border with Ukraine
Russian troop deployment worries NATO

Russian tanks near the border with Ukraine are creating a mood of alarm at NATO. Foreign Minister Maas urges the Kremlin to exercise restraint. The government in Kiev calls on the SPD politician to be prudent.

NATO has warned Moscow against military attacks on the border with Ukraine. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Moscow on Monday to refrain from “any further provocations or aggressive actions”. “NATO stands on the side of Ukraine,” emphasized Stoltenberg. The governments in Berlin and Paris were also extremely concerned.

At a joint appearance with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitri Kuleba in Brussels, Stoltenberg spoke of “large and unusual” Russian troops marching on the Ukrainian border. He announced that he would discuss the situation with the defense ministers of the EU countries in Brussels. Kuleba accused Moscow of wanting to “destabilize” its country. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had already warned Russia last week against an invasion of Ukraine.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office in Berlin said: “We are watching these military activities by Russia with concern.” With its European and transatlantic partners, Germany “agrees that we must prevent a military escalation”. The acting Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his French colleague Jean-Yves Le Drian called on Russia to “restrain”. They met their Ukrainian colleagues on the sidelines of the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

Putin criticizes exercises in the Black Sea

Germany and France are “firm in their resolute support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Maas and Le Drian said in a statement afterwards. “Any new attempt to undermine Ukraine’s territorial integrity would have serious consequences,” they warned Moscow.

At the same time, Maas and Le Drian called on Ukraine to “maintain a level-headed attitude”. As early as the spring, Kiev had “made a significant contribution to de-escalating the situation”. The ministers referred to a massive Russian troop deployment near the Ukrainian border at the time.

French President Emmanuel Macron underlined in a telephone conversation with Putin that France was ready to “defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” as the Elysée Palace announced. According to the Kremlin, Putin criticized in the telephone conversation that the military exercises in the Black Sea “increased” tensions between Russia and NATO. The Russian President was apparently referring to recent exercises by US and other NATO military ships in the sea area. At the weekend, Putin had already described these exercises as a “serious challenge”.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby rejected the criticism. “All of our exercises are defensive in nature and are consistent with our alliances and partnership commitments in the region,” he said. The US was also transparent about its military exercises. Photographs and press releases with details about the maneuvers would be published.

Last concentration of troops at the border in March

On the other hand, on the Russian side, there was “no transparency with regard to the concentration of soldiers in the western part of the country,” criticized Kirby. The US continued to watch “with concern” the current Russian troop movements in the border area with Ukraine.

In March, Russia gathered thousands of soldiers, heavy military equipment, naval ships and air force planes near the Ukrainian border and in the region of the annexed Crimean peninsula in a massive deployment of troops. After weeks, Moscow finally declared the alleged maneuver over and withdrew its soldiers.

The Ukrainian army has been fighting pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. The West accuses Russia of supporting the separatists, which Moscow denies.

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