WASHINGTON, July 16, 2014 —
U.S. defense officials are concerned about a buildup of Russian troops along that country’s border with Ukraine, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said today.
“We believe there are now between 10,000 and 12,000 Russian troops on the border,” Warren told reporters. “We also have reason to believe that the Russians are continuing to support the separatist movement in Ukraine.”
The size of the Russian presence in the region means it’s capable of conducting operations on either side of the border, he added. “I can’t speak for what they intend to do. Certainly, it is intimidating.”
A few weeks ago, about 1,000 Russian soldiers were along the border. Earlier this year, tens of thousands of Russian troops were deployed in the area, Warren said.
The United States wants the Russians to stop what it terms provocative behavior and “execute actions that are in line with their words,” Warren said. Russian officials have said they want peace and stability in Ukraine and de-escalation of the situation there, but their actions work counter to those goals, he noted.
U.S. officials believe that some weaponry -- “possibly some heavy weapons” are flowing into Ukraine for use by separatists, Warren said. The troops moving to the area are battalion task groups and are combat soldiers.
U.S. and Ukrainian military officials met in June. “Another team is due to head out in the next few weeks to scope out specific defense institution building activities and programs that we may want to pursue,” he added.
The United States has sent body armor, uniforms and foodstuffs to Ukraine, and more aid is on the way. In addition, night-vision and thermal-imaging equipment and medical supplies are expected to arrive in Ukraine soon, Warren said.
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