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Nato urges Moscow to reduce tensions over military buildup near Ukraine

Secretary-General Nato has called on Moscow to ease tensions with Ukraine and be transparent about its military activities as he warned of an “unusual concentration” of Russian troops near the country’s borders.

Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference Nato had been monitoring the “significant” build-up of Russia’s military forces, vowing to be “clear” about challenges in the region.

“We also know that Russia has demonstrated both the will and the ability to use force against Ukraine before. “I think none of us should speculate too much. But the reality is that we notice an unusual concentration of Russian military-capable forces.”

Last week, the US informed its allies of intelligence indicating that Moscow was preparing for a possible invasion of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed concerns as “alarmers” and accused Nato of increasing tensions in the region with unplanned exercises of their own.

Kyiv estimates that Russia has deployed up to 114,000 forces in northern, eastern and southern Ukraine – including about 92,000 ground troops and the rest in the air and sea military forces, said Kyrylo Budanov, director Ukrainian military intelligence, said. told FT.

Speaking at the same press conference, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the country needed to be ready for “any situation” and that it was too early to draw conclusions about Russia’s plans. He called for close coordination between Ukraine and its partners to take whatever measures are necessary to “help deter Russia”.

German Deputy Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday that Germany is making it clear to Russia on all diplomatic levels “that we are seeing [the troop build-up on Ukraine’s borders] and this cannot be the beginning of a new escalation”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke about this “very clearly” in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Maas said.

Moscow accused the US and its allies of “negative courage” over the situation in Ukraine. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Tass news agency on Monday: “There are less and less grains left over for whatever reason. It is full of provocations against us and its content is also extremely provocative.”

Stoltenberg said Nato’s support for Ukraine “is not a threat to Russia” and said the coalition and its allies’ exercises in the Black Sea region are “defensive and transparent.” “.

EU foreign ministers met in Brussels on Monday, where they also discussed the situation on the EU’s eastern border.

The union has accused the regime of Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko of deliberately luring migrants to its borders as part of a plan to destabilize the EU in retaliation for its support of the country’s political opposition. Belarus.

Asked if there was a link between Russia’s activities near Ukraine and the situation in Belarus, which is backed by Russia, Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, refused to draw any conclusions. which argument. “It’s clear that Lukashenko is doing what he’s doing because he has strong Russian support,” Borrell said.

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