BRUSSELS – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday urged Russia to be more transparent about its military activities near Ukraine but he did not think Moscow might be preparing to invade its former Soviet neighbor.
Ukraine claims that Russia has kept tens of thousands of troops and equipment near their shared border after waging war games earlier this year. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014 and has supported a separatist insurgency that broke out that year in eastern Ukraine and still controls territory there.
The United States has warned the European Union to be wary of Russia’s intentions, but EU diplomats say that although they perceive Moscow’s military buildup, they do not believe Russia can act soon. .
“We call on Russia to be transparent about its military activities,” Stoltenberg told reporters after talks in Brussels with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. “It’s important to prevent escalation and reduce tensions.”
When asked if he feared a possible invasion, Stoltenberg said: “What we see is a large, substantial Russian military build-up. We see a concentration of troops. and we know that Russia has been prepared in the past to use these types of military capabilities to carry out aggressive actions against Ukraine.”
“I think it’s important that we don’t increase tensions, but we have to be clear, we need to be realistic about the challenges we face,” he said.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry claims that about 90,000 Russian troops are stationed not far from their borders and in rebel-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine. It said units of Russia’s 41st corps remained in Yelnya, a town 260 kilometers (about 160 miles) north of the Ukrainian border.
“We have to be ready for all scenarios, for all options,” said Kuleba, and he called for help from the 30-nation military organization “to strengthen Ukraine’s resilience.”