The SteveWire

NATO Warns Russia Over ‘Large, Unusual’ Troop Build-Up Near Ukraine

(Article text ©2021 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty - rferl.org - Nov. 15, 2021 - article text also appeared at rferl.org/a/blinken-le-drian-ukraine-russia/31561732.html)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia to be "transparent" about its military activities amid what he called a "large and unusual concentration" of Russian forces close to Ukraine's borders in recent weeks.

U.S. and European officials have raised alarm bells over Russian military activities near Ukraine, where Kremlin-backed separatists control swaths of territory in an ongoing seven-year conflict that has claimed more than 13,200 lives since April 2014.

"Any further provocation or aggressive actions by Russia would be of serious concern," Stoltenberg told a joint news conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Brussels on November 15.

Two days earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed "reports of concerning Russian military activity in and near Ukraine" with his French counterpart, according to the State Department.

Spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on November 14 that Blinken and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also addressed their countries' "ironclad commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

The statement did not provide further details of their discussions, which Price said occurred on November 13.

Last week, Blinken warned Russia against making another "serious mistake" on Ukraine as Washington sought information about an alleged Russian troop movement near the border that the Pentagon called "unusual in its size and scope."

EU officials also expressed concerns and said they were monitoring the situation along with the United States and Britain. France warned that any aggressive actions by Moscow would have "serious consequences."

On November 15 in London, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Britain remains "unwavering" in its support for Ukraine's territorial integrity.

"We are seeing a concerning situation at that border. We remain in unwavering support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and will continue to support them in the face of Russian hostility," the spokesman told reporters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed Western suggestions that Moscow might be considering offensive military action and accused Washington of aggressive moves in the Black Sea, where Ukraine and the United States have held major military drills in recent months.

Stoltenberg said on November 15 such exercises in the Black Sea region are "defensive and transparent."

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Key Words: Ukraine, Russia, NATO, Military Exercises

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