Russia Asked to Explain ‘Large and Unusual Concentration’ of Forces near Ukraine
'And what we see is a significant, large Russian military build-up'
Secretary-General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg has demanded that Moscow explains why a “large and unusual concentration” of Russian forces is amassing along the Ukrainian border.
Stoltenberg said at a press conference:
“Any further provocation or aggressive actions by Russia would be of serious concern. We call on Russia to be transparent about its military activities."
“We have to be clear-eyed; we need to be realistic about the challenges we face," Stoltenberg said
"And what we see is a significant, large Russian military build-up."
“We see an unusual concentration of troops, and we know that Russia has been willing to use these types of military capabilities before to conduct aggressive actions against Ukraine,” he warned.
Stoltenberg said that NATO believes the concentration of 100,000 or more Russian troops close to Ukraine means Russia may decide to “conduct a military aggressive action against Ukraine” with very little notice.
“What we see along our border is a sophisticated military infrastructure, rolled out during the spring escalation, that is ready to be used for offensive operations against Ukraine,” Kuleba said from Brussels.
“I cannot speculate on the exact scale of those operations, but back in 2014, it was unimaginable that Crimea would be seized by Russia."
"Therefore, I cannot exclude any scenario at this point,” he said.
A NATO source told Reuters Russia has been moving “large equipment such as tanks, self-propelled artillery and infantry fighting vehicles” to the border during nighttime to avoid photos and videos of the deployment.
The NATO official noted the concerning contrast with Russia’s military buildup last year, which was conducted in the daytime, which was seen as a political ploy to increase pressure on the Ukrainian government.
The NATO source added when asked whether Russia may be gearing up to invade Ukraine:
“I would not exclude that as a possibility."
Kuleba also argued Russia’s provocative actions on the Ukrainian and Belarusian borders were a “broad strategy to shatter Europe.”
“When we see migrants used as a weapon when we see disinformation used as a weapon when we see gas used as a weapon, and soldiers and their guns … these are not separate elements,” he said.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said Russian President Vladimir Putin could be planning to use the crisis zones as cover for invading another.
“I think that what Putin might be playing is that we don’t have an answer to who is under attack,” Landsbergis said.
The U.S. U.K and the European Union also expressed concern about Russia’s military buildup over the weekend.
“We’re very concerned about some of the irregular movements of forces that we see on Ukraine’s borders. I can’t speak to Russia’s intentions. We don’t know what they are, but we do know that we’ve seen in the past Russia mass forces on Ukraine’s borders,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday.
Blinken said Russia could be seeking “some kind of provocation” as a pretext for an invasion.
“We are seeing a concerning situation at that border. We remain in unwavering support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and will continue to support them in the face of Russian hostility,” said a spokesman for U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday.