On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said there were nearly 100,000 Russian soldiers near Ukraine’s border and that Western countries had shared information about active Russian troop movements with Kyiv. “I hope the whole world can now clearly see who really wants peace and who is concentrating nearly 100,000 soldiers at our border,” he said in a video of a speech on Wednesday carried on his website.
The Russian troop movements near the Ukrainian border have spurred fears of a possible attack.
Moscow has dismissed such suggestions as inflammatory and complained about increasing activity in the region by the NATO transatlantic alliance.
Speaking to Politico, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned the situation is “seriously deteriorating.”
He said: “The current developments should be seen in context. Back in the spring, Russia rolled out camps, installed radio capabilities, put missile systems along our border.
“They are all still there. All they need to do now is to bring people in and give them orders to operate all this.
“This is why this situation is so dangerous.”
He added: “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.
“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.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that he had rejected a defence ministry proposal to hold snap Black Sea military drills in response to NATO activity because he did not want to escalate tensions in the region.
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Russia has complained about what it has called a dangerous increase in military activity by the United States and its allies in the Black Sea region with greater Western spy plane activity, more strategic bombers flights, and the presence of two US warships.
Some of the activity has been taking place in the vicinity of Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 and which Kyiv wants back.
Tensions are also high over what US officials have called a worrying Russian military build-up near Ukraine and a migrant standoff between Belarus, a close ally of Russia, and the European Union.
“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,” Mr Kuleba added.
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“They are all part of a broad strategy to shatter Europe.
“We should see everything that is happening east of the EU border and inside of the EU as part of a general effort.
“These are not separate events.”
On Sunday, President Putin said: “I should say that our Defence Ministry had a proposal to hold our own snap drills in those waters. But I believe that would be pointless and that there is no need to further add to tensions there.
“So the defence ministry is limiting itself to escorting (NATO) jets and ships.”
The United States has said its warships are in the Black Sea to enhance collaboration with NATO allies in the region.
“The United States and their NATO allies are really holding unplanned, I want to highlight it, unplanned drills in Black Sea waters,” Putin said.
“…This is a serious challenge for us.”