The Kremlin strongly denied US claims of a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine on Monday, saying it could be a ruse to cover up what it called the Ukrainian leadership’s aggressive intentions.
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, dismissed US media allegations of Moscow’s purported plans to invade Ukraine as part of an effort to discredit Russia. He insisted that troop movements on Russian soil should not worry anyone.
Ukraine complained earlier this month that Russia had kept tens of thousands of troops close to the two countries’ borders after conducting war games in an effort to put more pressure on its former Soviet neighbor. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and has backed a separatist insurgency that erupted in eastern Ukraine that year.
This month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Ukraine’s foreign minister that Russia’s “playbook” was to build up forces near the border and then invade, “claiming falsely that it was provoked.”
Peskov attempted to turn the tables on Ukraine and the West, claiming that the US and its allies’ expressions of concern may “mask aggressive intentions in Kyiv to try to solve the problem of the southeast by force.”
He accused the Ukrainian military of increasingly frequent shootings across the tense line of contact in the east, adding that Moscow is deeply concerned about the United States and other NATO countries arming Ukraine.
“The number of provocations has increased, and those provocations have been carried out using weapons that NATO countries have sent to Ukraine,” Peskov said during a conference call with reporters. “We’re keeping a close eye on it.”
Russia has thrown its weight behind the separatist insurgency known as Donbas in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, which has killed over 14,000 people. Moscow, on the other hand, has repeatedly denied any presence of its troops in eastern Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also criticized Ukrainian military officials’ “bellicose rhetoric,” saying it could “reflect a desire to conduct provocations and turn the conflict into a hot phase.”
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, dismissed Russian allegations that Ukraine was planning an attack on Donbas as part of Moscow’s “disinformation.”
“Let me state it unequivocally: Ukraine does not intend to launch a military offensive in the Donbas,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter. “We are committed to resolving the conflict through political and diplomatic means.” The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) scathingly criticized the US State Department for spreading “absolute lies” about a purported Russian buildup near Ukraine in a strongly worded statement.
“The Americans are painting a terrible picture of Russian tank armadas crushing Ukrainian cities,” the statement said on Monday. “It’s startling to see how quickly a once-respectable foreign policy agency has devolved into a mouthpiece for deceptive propaganda.”
Ukraine, according to the SVR, was beefing up its forces near Russia and Belarus. The Russian spy agency also accused the United States and the European Union of fostering “a sense of permissiveness and impunity” in Ukraine, comparing the situation to Western expressions of support for Georgia prior to the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia.
In the brief conflict that erupted when Georgia attempted to reclaim control of a Russia-backed separatist province, Russia routed the Georgian army. Following the war, Moscow recognized the independence of Georgia’s two separatist provinces.