MOSCOW AND KIEV – The Russian government said on Thursday that the recent movement of troops near the border with Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula, occupied by Moscow since 2014, is natural and should not cause concern. The movements were criticized by Ukrainians and NATO, the main military alliance in the West.
“Russia moves its armed forces in its territory,” said Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov. – But it poses no threat, and it shouldn’t cause concern.
In early March, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced a series of military exercises in areas bordering Ukraine, including near the war front in the east of the country since 2014, and in Crimea, with the participation of troops, aircraft and heavy equipment.
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However, some of these exercises, as in Crimea, should have ended, but the contingent remains stationed in these areas. As the New York Times reported, citing intelligence from the United States, there are about 4,000 military personnel in the two regions.
Although the Kremlin denies having any ulterior motives, the concern of other governments is evident, especially in the face of an escalation in fighting between Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatists in recent weeks, violating the terms of a ceasefire in the eastern Ukraine conflict. Officially, Moscow has no direct involvement in the civil war, which has left more than 13,000 dead since 2014 – but the country is accused of providing equipment and personnel to rivals in the Ukrainian army.
– We are concerned about the recent escalation of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, including violations of the July 20 ceasefire agreement, which resulted in the death of four Ukrainian soldiers on March 26, when two soldiers were wounded. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
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Since the agreement to end hostilities last year, 19 Ukrainian soldiers have died.
– The allies shared their concerns about Russia’s recent large-scale military activities in and around Ukraine. Allies are also concerned about Russian violations of the July 2020 ceasefire – a NATO official, the North Atlantic Military Alliance, told Reuters.
According to the head of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Ruslan Jomchak, there are today 28,000 separatist fighters and 2,000 Russian “instructors and advisers” in the country. When questioned, Peskov said that “Russian military personnel never participated” in this war, and stressed that, in the Kremlin’s view, these are “defensive” actions.
“There is activity from NATO, other alliances and countries on the perimeter of the Russian borders, this requires us to keep a watchful eye,” Peskov said.
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In the same vein, Russian Chancellor Sergei Lavrov said he believed the Ukrainian military “understood” the risks that a resumption of the conflict in the east of the country could pose to the country.
– President Putin said [isso] not long ago, but that statement is still relevant: those who try to start a new war in Donbass will destroy Ukraine, ”he said.
Dangerous for Russians
Amid increased tension on the border with Ukraine, Russia has issued a warning about another former Soviet republic, Georgia. The visit of a TV presenter known for his pro-Russian positions, Vladimir Pozner, to Tbilisi sparked a series of protests that included posters and egg throws at the hotel where he is staying.
Recently, Pozner said that the Georgian government will never be able to regain control over two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which declared independence in the midst of the war between Russia and Georgia in 2008. The presenter said he went to the country not to talk about politics, but to celebrate your birthday with friends.
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After the protests, Dmitry Peskov declared that the acts were carried out by “extremist nationalists”, and said that the country is “dangerous for Russian citizens”.
– It is dangerous to go there, and the Russians need to understand that.
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