Russian 'troop build-up' near Ukraine alarms North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

Then-US vice president Joe Biden in Kyiv Ukraine

Russian social media in recent days has been flooded by unverified videos, showing large quantities of personnel, tanks and other vehicles on the move in the country's south and south-west bordering on Ukraine.

The conflict-monitoring Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) continues to report dozens, sometimes hundreds, of ceasefire violations every day, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Thursday that 20 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed so far in 2021 - including four earlier this week in the deadliest single confrontation for months - and another 57 injured.

The top Pentagon general called counterparts in Russia and Ukraine Wednesday (31 March) as the US Defense Department expressed concerns about a reported buildup of Russian troops along Ukraine's border and in Crimea. "We can not exclude that Biden's presidency is part of the Russian calculus, that it's time for Moscow to show a bit of muscle".

An alarming photo has offered grim insight into growing tensions between Ukraine and Russian Federation as both nations accuse the other of violating a ceasefire agreement.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, Andrii Taran, and "condemned recent escalations of Russian aggressive and provocative actions in eastern Ukraine", the Pentagon said.

"President Biden affirmed the United States' unwavering support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia's ongoing aggression in the Donbas and Crimea", the statement read.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russian Federation of a "systemic aggravation" of the security situation in Donbass and Crimea. "Of course, this would call for additional measures from the Russian side to ensure its security", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

FILE - Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov listens during Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 19, 2019.

Russia Massing Troops on Border, Ukraine Warns
Russia warns new Donbas conflict could 'destroy' Ukraine, NATO rebukes Moscow

On Wednesday, the Pentagon said USA forces in Europe had raised their alert status following the "recent escalations of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine". "I very much hope that they will not be prompted by politicians, who, in turn, will incite the West, led by the United States", Lavrov was quoted as saying.

Both the Pentagon and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation have expressed concern about Russia's military build-up.

According to Gen Khomchak, Russia also has almost 3,000 officers and military instructors in the rebel units in eastern Ukraine.

"In addition, an attempt to advance Russian occupation forces deep into Ukraine is not ruled out", it said.

Ukraine has been battling pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions since 2014, following Moscow's annexation of the Crimean peninsula after an uprising that ousted Ukraine's Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych.

Moscow and Kiev have been locked in conflict since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine's Donbass started a bloody civil war, declaring independence for the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Peskov said the situation at the contact line in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatist forces was quite frightening and that multiple "provocations" were taking place there.


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