Russia questions NATO military buildup near border

Russia questions NATO military buildup near border
Sat Apr 26, 2014 18:51:33

A top Russian military commander has advised senior US military officials against deployment of US and NATO aviation, ships and troops near its border.

Russia’s Chief of General Staff General Valery Gerasimov also told Chairman of the US Joints Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey during a Friday phone conversation that Ukraine deployed a “substantial group of forces” on its border with Russia, potentially capable of conducting sabotage, according to an RT report, citing a defense ministry statement that offered details of the phone communication.

“On the Ukrainian side of the border with Russia, light mechanized border troops are operating, designed for subversive activities,” defense ministry’s statement read.

The Russian commander also raised concerns over Kiev's deployment of troops to the eastern regions of the country in a so-called “counter-terrorist operation” that resulted in civilian casualties.

At least five anti-government protesters were killed in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slavyansk after Kiev authorities sent tanks and armored vehicles against the local population.

On Thursday, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that 11,000 Ukrainian soldiers, 160 tanks, 230 armored carriers and at least 150 artillery pieces are involved in the operation against anti-Kiev protesters.

Meanwhile, Gerasimov also informed Dempsey of the new military training maneuvers by Russia, as well as the planned flights of Russian jets in the airspace bordering Ukraine.

On Thursday, Russia began military exercises near the Ukrainian border following the escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine.

“The order to use force against civilians has already been given, and if this military machine is not stopped, the amount of casualties will only grow,” said Shoigu.

Russian drills involve march and deployment maneuvers by forces in the southern and western military districts, and separate Air Force exercises.

The top Russian commander further urged his colleague to “carefully consider Russian concerns and take steps to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine and the Russian border.”

The first waves of US soldiers have already arrived in Poland and Latvia, after Tuesday announcement that the Pentagon is sending about 600 soldiers to Poland and the three Baltic states for infantry exercises.

“If there's a message to Moscow, it is the same exact message that we take our obligations very, very seriously on the continent of Europe,” US Defense Department spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said at the time.

Also this week, the US frigate USS Taylor entered the Black Sea, with this NATO vessel – the French frigate Dupleix – reportedly scheduled to enter the Black Sea by the end of the week. France is also sending four fighter jets to help NATO’s air patrols over the Baltics.

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