US official says buildup of Russian forces near Ukraine is ‘concerning’

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A US defense official told CBS News that there is a “concerning” buildup of Russian troops near the border with Ukraine, adding that Moscow has not announced any training in the area to account for the development.

The two countries have been in conflict since Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

The US — which contributes millions in both non-military and military aid to Ukraine every year — and its NATO allies do not recognize Russia’s annexation of the peninsula.

The official’s remarks come after Ukrainian Commander in Chief Ruslan Khomchack told his country’s parliament on Tuesday that Russian forces have been assembling near the border under the guise of maintaining combat readiness and preparing for exercises.

Khomchack accused Moscow of pursuing an “aggressive policy” toward Kyiv and also accused pro-Moscow separatists of violating a ceasefire in the conflict in eastern Ukraine agreed in July 2020, Reuters reported.

Kyiv says the conflict has killed 14,000 people since 2014.

Lawmakers said 26 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed so far this year, including four killed by snipers last week.

“The Russian Federation continues its aggressive policy towards Ukraine,” Khomchak told parliament.

“An additional concentration of up to 25 tactical groups is expected, which, together with the already deployed forces near the state border of Ukraine, poses a threat to the military security of the state,” he said.

Khomchak added that Moscow holds 32,700 troops in Crimea, while its officers command 28,000 separatist servicemen stationed in temporarily occupied territories in eastern Ukraine.

Late Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of provoking armed confrontation with pro-Russian separatists and failing to honor earlier agreements over its wartorn east, the Kremlin said in a readout of a phone call with France and Germany’s leaders, Reuters reported.

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