BRUSSELS, Nov. 15 (Reuters) – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday warned Russia that the Western military alliance stands alongside Ukraine amid a large and unusual concentration of Russian troops at the borders of Ukraine.
Stressing that the important thing now was to prevent situations from spiraling out of control, Stoltenberg urged Russia to be transparent about military activities, reduce tensions and prevent an escalation.
“We have to be clear-headed, we have to be realistic about the challenges we face. And what we are seeing is a significant and significant Russian military build-up,” Stoltenberg said at a press conference with the Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba in Brussels.
He said he did not want to speculate on Russia’s intentions, but added: “We are seeing an unusual concentration of troops, and we know that Russia has already been willing to use this type of military capability to conduct military operations. aggressive actions against Ukraine ““.
Russian troop movements have raised fears in recent days of a possible attack. Moscow dismissed these suggestions as inflammatory and complained about increased activity in the region by NATO’s transatlantic alliance.
Russia annexed Crimea to Ukraine in 2014 and claims the waters around it now belong to Moscow, although most countries continue to recognize the peninsula as Ukrainian.
Russia-backed separatists took control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region in the same year, and soldiers on both sides continue to be regularly killed in the conflict.
The build-up of troops at the border – which Ukraine estimated last week at 100,000 – was dangerous, Stoltenberg said, because it shortened the warning period if Russia decided to “take aggressive military action against the border. ‘Ukraine’.
“These are partly forces close to the border between Russia and Ukraine, but partly also troops and capabilities that are inside Ukraine, which means they are in Crimea. , which is illegally annexed, and also we see the militants, the separatists in Donbass, which is also part of Ukraine, supported and aided by Russia, “he said.
A NATO source, asked to describe how Russia is going about deploying its military equipment to Ukraine, said: media as they did during the rise of the Russian military in the spring . “
“It can go both ways,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters, also on Monday, on the sidelines of a meeting with his European Union counterparts.
The West cannot rule out a Russian attack on Ukraine as international attention focuses on the migration crisis in Belarus, or as Russia establishes a permanent military presence in Belarus, he said.
âI wouldn’t rule this out as a possibility,â he said.
Reporting by Sabine Siebold and Robin Emmott; Written by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Alex Richardson, William Maclean
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