Conflicts & War

US, Nato cast doubt on Russia’s claims of troop withdrawal

(Update 1: adds US official statement pars 2, 7-10, changes headline)

New York City/Moscow/Brussels/Kiev, Feb 16 (EFE).- Russian troops deployed in Crimea were returning to their barracks, the Russian defense ministry said Wednesday, after completing military drills on the peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

But at the start of a two-day summit in Brussels, Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had yet to see evidence of de-escalation along Ukraine’s border, while in the United States, a senior government official claimed Moscow had sent thousands more troops to the border.

“The units of the Southern Military District, which have completed their participation in tactical exercises at the training grounds of the Crimean Peninsula, are marching to their permanent deployment points,” the Russian defense ministry said.

“The personnel of the unit loaded armored vehicles on caterpillar tracks: tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled artillery mounts onto railway platforms at loading stations,” the statement added.

On Tuesday, the defense ministry’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov had announced that other Russian military units had also started returning to their permanent bases after concluding drills in western and southern areas near the border with Ukraine.

But Stoltenberg, who was meeting on Wednesday morning with the alliance’s defense ministers, said that they “have not seen any de-escalation on the ground – on the contrary, it appears that Russia continues their military buildup.”

Likewise, a senior United States government official said later Wednesday that “we have now confirmed that in the last several days, Russia has increased its troop presence along the Ukrainian border by as many as 7,000 troops, with some arriving as recently as today.”

“Every indication we have now is they mean only to publicly offer to talk and make claims about de-escalation while privately mobilizing for war,” the official added in a call with reporters Wednesday evening.

In recent days, the US has increased its estimates of the Russian military concentrated near Ukraine to 150,000 troops, compared to 100,000 a few weeks ago, and insists that it could attack the neighboring country “at any moment.”

Stoltenberg reiterated Nato’s willingness to “sit down and discuss” with Russia but reminded Moscow that the alliance “was prepared for the worst.”

“We really hope that Russia will engage in meaningful dialogue and choose diplomacy instead of confrontation,” Stoltenberg added.

US news outlet Politico reported that US president Joe Biden’s administration had warned its allies of a possible Russian invasion on Wednesday, which Ukraine chose to mark as a Day of Unity.

During a special televised event to mark the event on Wednesday, Ukraine’s defense minister Oleksii Reznikov said that the situation on his country’s borders was stable.

“This morning, like every single day, I received another summary with figures and facts, and they fully correspond to our forecasts and do not contain anything unexpected,” Reznikov said.

“Our intelligence officials see everything. We are in constant contact with our partners, our data coincide and our country is ready for any scenario,” he stressed.

In an address to the nation on Monday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said: “We are told that February 16 will be the day of the attack. We will make it the Day of Unity. The relevant decree has already been signed.”

However, Moscow has repeatedly denied it plans to invade Ukraine, accusing the West of creating “hysteria”. EFE


Related Articles

Back to top button