By Kristina Wong - 03/20/14 04:11 PM EDT
Russia’s defense minister Sergei Shoigu said Thursday that thousands of Russian troops on the eastern and southern borders of Ukraine were there for exercises only, would not cross into the rest of Ukraine, and would take no aggressive action.
The remarks came during a lengthy phone call with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday, according to Pentagon press secretary Adm. John Kirby.
"Mr. Shoigu assured him...that it was an exercise, that they had no intention of crossing the border into Ukraine, and that they would take no aggressive action. [Hagel's] expectation is that they will meet their word on that," Kirby said.
However, Kirby said Shoigu had no "firm timetable" on when the exercises would be completed.
Kirby said the call was prompted by Hagel's concern over the death of a Ukrainian warrant officer in a clash with Russian troops earlier this week.
Hagel warned Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu that, since Russian forces were in control of Crimea, they bear responsibility for what is happening there, Kirby said.
The Pentagon has promised 25,000 cases of military rations known as Meals-Ready-to-Eat for Ukrainian forces, but they have not yet been delivered, Kirby said.
The Pentagon is still actively reviewing military assistance for Ukrainian forces, Kirby said, but added, “It’s safe to say that right now, the focus of that review is on the nonlethal side of things.”
Other nonlethal aid items under review include medical and uniform equipment, he said.