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Moscow: No troop build-up or undeclared military activity near Ukraine borders

Published time: March 23, 2014 11:00
Edited time: March 23, 2014 15:35

RIA Novosti / Evgeny Yepanchintsev

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Russia is observing all international agreements on troop limits in regions bordering Ukraine, the Russian Deputy Defense Minister said, adding that foreign missions’ inspections can confirm that.

The statement was made in response to reports by several foreign media outlets over concentrations of "thousands" of Russian servicemen on the Russian-Ukrainian border.

“By the way this issue has during the last month been regularly raised in telephone conversations between Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu, and his foreign counterparts, including US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and even acting Ukrainian Defense Minister Igor Tenyukh,” Anatoly Antonov, the Russian Deputy Defense Minister said.

Sergey Shoigu has, in a very transparent manner, informed all of them about the real situation on the Russian-Ukrainian border. He also stressed that Russia has no intention to concentrate troops there, Antonov said.

Following recent probes by foreign missions in Russia of Ukraine’s bordering regions, foreign inspectors came to the conclusion that "Russian Armed Forces are not undertaking any undeclared military activity that would threaten the security of neighboring countries," Antonov added.

The official said eight foreign inspection groups have recently visited Russia.

“Our venues and regions, where troops are stationed near Ukrainian borders, have twice been checked by the Ukrainian military,” the Deputy Minister said. “Besides, we have had on our territory inspectors from the US, Canada, Germany, France, Switzerland, Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Finland.”

Seven of those eight missions were interested in Russian regions bordering with Ukraine, Antonov said. Foreign inspectors were allowed to talk to chiefs of the Russian military units, make pictures of deployment sites and military vehicles, and control them during relocation.

“We did our best to meet our partners’ requests by allowing them to inspect all of the sites they wanted to. We have nothing to hide,” Antonov said.

The deputy minister said he was hoping that participants of those inspecting missions would inform their countries’ leaderships of what is really going on at the border between Russia and Ukraine.

"We believe this would to large extent facilitate release of tension, something the head of the Pentagon, Hagel, called for during his recent phone conversation with Minister Shoigu.”

Germans, French ‘nullified military co-op with Russia under pressure’

Berlin’s and Paris’ moves to halt military cooperation with Moscow are derailing the bilateral efforts of recent years and are completely unconstructive, Antonov said. However, according to the defense official, the two did so under pressure from their NATO ally.

“Obviously, the proverbial ‘Atlantic solidarity’ has made our French and German partners come up with loud statements against Russia,” Antonov said.

“Refusing from contacts and delegatory exchange though military departments brings to naught the positive tendencies established in the recent years, including the cooperation on Afghanistan, the dialogue on transparency of military activity and military-technical cooperation. We perceive the decision of the German side as taken under pressure and unconstructive,” Antonov stressed.

Both Russian and German defense ministries have recently undertaken some “serious efforts” in mutually beneficial cooperation, the official noted. He also highlighted the “unprecedented” bilateral work with France, including that of the Air Forces and Airborne Forces, noting that a “new impulse of cooperation” had been planned for 2014.

Addressing media on Sunday, Antonov stressed that Russia and its European partners are equally interested in military cooperation. It is “very easy to ruin what has been done by our countries [in the field of military cooperation] and it will be very difficult to restore relations,” he said.

The Russian side hopes that Germany and France will review the situation on the Ukrainian border upon receiving reports from the international inspectors and will move to restore the severed ties, Antonov said. For now, Moscow will act in accordance with the “existing realities,” he added.