Defense

Top diplomat, Pentagon says US closely watching Russian buildup on Ukraine border

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The Biden administration is closely following Russia’s recent military buildup along its border with Ukraine and is warning Moscow against any escalation.

U.S. officials have relayed to senior Russian officials that any increased threat to Ukraine has potential consequences, Karen Donfried, assistant secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia, told The Associated Press.

“Any time we see unusual Russian military activity near Ukraine we make clear that any escalatory or aggressive action is of great concern to the United States,” she told the AP. “We’re very clear that we support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and that our commitment to that has not changed and is unwavering and that we will continue to stand with Ukraine and we will condemn any Russian aggression against Ukraine in all its forms.”

Donfried — who visited Moscow last week as part of a U.S. delegation led by CIA Director William Burns to warn off Russian officials — did not speak on specific consequences for the Kremlin.

But she noted that during the Moscow meetings, Burns “was effective in sending the messages that he thought it was appropriate to send” to officials, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and one of his top advisers.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon also said it was closely following the situation. Ukrainian officials have said about 90,000 Russian troops are stationed near the border after completing military drills.

Defense Department press secretary John Kirby called the military presence “unusual in its size and scope,” and that the department was “monitoring this very closely.”

“What we continue to see is unusual military activity inside Russia, but near Ukraine’s borders, and we remain concerned about that. And it’s not exactly clear what the Russian intentions are. We obviously would like to better understand that and we don’t want to see any action further destabilize what is already a very tense part of the world,” he said.

Since Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014, Moscow has backed a separatist insurgency in Ukraine’s east. More than 14,000 people have died in the fighting.

Russia, which has repeatedly denied it has troops in eastern Ukraine, also amassed a large number of its forces in the western part of the country earlier this year, raising concerns in Europe and the United States that it was preparing for further hostilities.

Russian officials, meanwhile, blamed NATO for the buildup, saying it was a response to the alliance’s forces operating near Russia’s borders.

The tensions come as Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with his Ukrainian counterpart in Washington on Wednesday.

Tags Antony Blinken John Kirby Russia Ukraine Vladimir Putin William Burns

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