NATO stands with Ukraine, warns Russia over troop buildup close to Ukraine: Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Stoltenberg called the latest military buildup the biggest since 2014

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BRUSSELS: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned Moscow on Tuesday not to push its troop buildup along the frontier with Ukraine, and expressed the alliance’s “unwavering” support for Russia’s neighbor.

In a news conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Stoltenberg said that “NATO stands with Ukraine,” and added that the Russian movements were “unjustified, unexplained and deeply concerning.”

The comments come amid a surge of cease-fire violations in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces have been locked in a conflict since Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Stoltenberg called it the biggest military buildup since then. “Russia has moved thousands of combat troops to Ukraine’s borders, the largest massing of Russian troops since the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Over the last days, several Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in eastern Ukraine,” he said.

Kuleba sounded defiant toward Moscow and said Ukraine and its Western partners were better prepared than 7 years ago. “Should Moscow take any reckless move or start a new spiral of violence, it will be costly in all senses,” Kuleba said.

Stoltenberg will be joined by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday to assess the Russian troop buildup, among other issues.

“Russia must end this military buildup in and around Ukraine, stop its provocations and de-escalate immediately,” Stoltenberg said.

“Russia has moved thousands of combat troops to Ukraine’s borders, the largest massing of Russian troops since the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Over the last days, several Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in eastern Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.

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