NATO allies have accused Russia of deceiving the world and spreading “disinformation” by claiming that part of its forces are returning to permanent bases, and that it has already deployed an additional 7,000 soldiers in the volatile border region with the Ukraine.
Amid fears of Russia’s invasion of the neighboring country, tensions rose on Thursday at the line between Ukrainian forces and Moscow-backed separatists in the country’s south, with both sides accusing both sides of launching bombings.
After a series of positive Russian signals that lowered the temperature of the crisis days ago, the pendulum appears to be swinging in the opposite direction again. With more than 150,000 troops stationed just a few kilometers from the Ukrainian border, the Kremlin has suggested seeking diplomatic solutions, a gesture welcomed by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, even as he and others warned that there were no clear signs of Russian troops withdrawing.
“We have seen the reversal of some of the announcements. We have seen an increase in the number of troops in the last 48 hours, up to 7,000,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said before the NATO meeting in Brussels. What a US official said on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Armed Forces Minister James Hebe described the allegations of the troop withdrawal as “misinformation”.
Moscow has claimed several times this week that some forces are retreating to their bases, but has not provided any details that would allow an independent assessment of the size and direction of troop movement, raising suspicion among Western leaders.
NATO allies criticized Russia again, Thursday, and warned of their readiness to respond to any aggression.
“The consequences of this mass conglomeration – nearly 60% of Russia’s ground forces on the borders of a sovereign state – will have the opposite effect,” Wallace warned.
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