Despite personal assurances from the Russian defense minister that Russian troops were gathering at Ukraine’s borders to conduct "springtime exercises" and not invade Ukraine further, the Pentagon said Thursday officials have been monitoring the situation closely, and have not seen any evidence of exercises taking place.
In the meantime, the Russian military is continuing to reinforce units on the southern and eastern borders with Ukraine, Kirby said.
“They have them in quite ... a number and in a composition that provides a lot — lots of capability,” he said. “We remain concerned about that. We're monitoring it closely.”
Last week, Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu told Defense Secretary Chuck HagelChuck HagelWho will temper Trump after he takes office? Hagel: I’m ‘encouraged’ by Trump’s Russia outreach Want to 'drain the swamp'? Implement regular order MORE that the troops were at the borders for exercises only and would not cross the border.
“But you know ... just because we haven't seen an indication of exercises now doesn't mean that one won't occur,” Kirby added.
“They made it clear that their intent was to do exercises and not to cross the border. Our expectation is they're going to live up to that word.”
Kirby declined to say how many Russian troops are estimated to be at Ukraine's southern and eastern borders.
At a briefing on Capitol Hill later in the day, the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S. Olexander Motsyk said there were about 100,000 troops amassed at the Ukraine border.