The United States is keeping a close watch on Russian troop movements near the country’s border with Ukraine, describing the activity as “unusual.”
“We continue to monitor this closely,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters Friday, while calling on Moscow to publicly explain its intentions.
“Without getting into greater detail right now, I think it’s really a matter of scale. It’s a matter of the size of the units that we’re seeing,” he said, adding, “Any escalatory or aggressive actions by Russia would be of great concern.”
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said earlier this week that an estimated 90,000 Russian troops were positioned along the border and in rebel-controlled parts of eastern Ukraine.
For its part, Moscow has denied any saber-rattling.
“Russia maintains troops presence on its territory wherever it deems necessary,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a call Wednesday, the same day the United States’ highest-ranking military officer called Moscow’s military movement “significant.”
“We’ve seen this before,” General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a security forum in Washington, saying that at that point there was “nothing overtly aggressive” about Russia’s actions.
“So, what does this mean? We don’t know yet,” Milley added. “But we’re continuing to monitor with all of our capabilities.”
U.S. military and intelligence officials voiced repeated concerns in April after Russia massed as many as 150,000 troops along its border with Ukraine, calling that buildup the biggest since Moscow’s invasion of Crimea in 2014.
Tensions between Russia and the West appear to be rising.
Russia earlier this week complained about U.S. and NATO activity in the Black Sea as its naval forces practiced destroying enemy targets there.
And last month, Russia suspended its diplomatic mission to NATO in retaliation for the expulsion of eight Russian officials.
In June, the U.S. gave Ukraine a $150 million security package that includes training and equipment, aimed at bolstering the country’s defensive capabilities.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.
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