Washington: Russia amassed more troops along its border with Ukraine than in 2014 at the height of tensions between the two countries, US Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday.
“It is the largest buildup we have seen certainly since 2014 which resulted in the violation of the Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. Again, I am not prepared to qualify for you how much bigger it is. It is certainly bigger than that… in 2014,” Kirby said during a press briefing.
Kirby confirmed that the Defense Department considers Russia’s current buildup exceeds the one in 2014, but refused to quantify it. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said earlier on Monday that there are more than 150,000 Russian troops amassing on the Ukrainian borders and in the Crimea.
“We certainly heard the Russians proclaim that it is all about training. It’s not completely clear to us that that’s exactly the purpose. So we remain seriously concerned about this buildup. And we call on Russia to be more transparent about their intentions and in addition to that to cease the provocations,” Kirby said.
The spokesperson urged Russia to take actions “that decrease, not escalate the tensions.”
Russia insists that all troops movements are aimed at ensuring its national security in response to NATO’s own buildup near Russia’s borders. Moscow denies having any military role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine and stresses that Crimea decided to rejoin Russia in 2014 through a democratic process in compliance with international law.