Ukraine has deployed 15,000 troops on its border with Russia, while NATO continues beefing up its forces in Eastern Europe, Russian Defense Ministry stated as the military alliance and Pentagon accuse Moscow of keeping armed forces close to Ukraine.
"The 15,000-strong grouping of Ukrainian forces has been deployed in the border areas. Military conscription has resumed [in Ukraine]," Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said in a statement on Thursday. "At the same time NATO amasses its grouping of forces in Eastern Europe," he stressed, adding that such actions are not contributing to the efforts to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine.
Antonov said Russia has pulled all its forces from its borders with its crisis-torn neighbor. He echoed President Vladimir Putin’s statement on Wednesday, when the Russian President assured OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss President Didier Burkhalter that Russian troops were relocated to ranges where they conduct regular drills.
However, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen insisted on Thursday that there is no sign that Russian troops have actually been withdrawn from the Ukrainian border.
“I have very good vision but while we've noted Russia’s statement so far we haven't seen any - any - indication of troops pulling back,” Rasmussen said on his Twitter. “If we saw visible signs of a meaningful pullback by Russia troops I'd be the first one to welcome it,” he added.
Earlier, the Pentagon said that it also saw no change in the Russian force position along the Ukrainian border.
"We have seen no change in the Russian force posture and we've long called on the Russians ... to withdraw their troops" from along the border, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said.
However, according to the Defense Ministry official, “there was traditionally no evidence supporting their positions, and especially American colleagues did not bother,” he said.
Antonov also urged official representatives of NATO and the Pentagon "to quit cynically deluding the international society concerning the real state of affairs on the Russian-Ukrainian border."
He stressed that in the past two months Russia has contributed to about a dozen inspections, including emergency observation flight of Ukraine across the border region with Russia. The most recent flights took part on May, 6 when an American-Norwegian group held its inspection along borders with Kharkov and Lugansk regions, and on May, 7, when the same group flew across the city of Bryansk.
“There was not noticed any undeclared military activities in these regions,” Antonov said. But despite this fact was recorded “in the presence of Russian representatives in the official protocols”, on public “opposite propaganda cliché statements accusing Russia of violating its commitments were broadcast.”
The West has repeatedly accused Moscow of deploying armed forces close to the borders with Ukraine and demanded to pull them back. At the same time, NATO has lately increased its activity in the region near the borders of Russia. On May, 5 NATO started its Spring Storm drills in Estonia. The 6,000-troop exercise is the biggest since 2003 when Spring Storm was first held.
On Wednesday NATO said it may permanently station additional troops in Eastern Europe as a defensive measure.
Russia views this recent build-up of NATO forces as a provocation and counter-productive in the struggle to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine.