Hagel Waits to Hear From Russian Counterparts
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 25, 2014 Defense Department officials are still waiting to hear back from their Russian counterparts after reaching out to them via phone yesterday to discuss tensions in Ukraine, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said today.
The department has made it clear to the Russians that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is available for a phone call at any time, Warren said.
"He wants to continue calling on the Russians to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine," the colonel said. "Their continued destabilizing activities along the Ukrainian border are unhelpful, and they need to withdraw their troops from the Ukrainian border and place them back into their garrisons and go about working to a peaceful resolution to this crisis."
Tens of thousands of Russian troops were mobilized to the region in late February and early March. While some of those troops seized control of the Crimean Peninsula, others established cantonment areas along Russia’s border with Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin told the international community that the troops in the border region were staging exercises. Until recently, defense officials have said there was no evidence the Russian military was conducting the type of exercises they had described.
Warren said reports from multiple sources indicate that the movements by thousands of troops in the region are now consistent with the exercises recently announced by Russia.
“Troops are moving out of their cantonment areas into exercise areas,” he said.
Russia has a broad array of forces aligned along the Ukrainian border, Warren said, including mechanized infantry, light infantry, armor and airborne troops and fixed- and rotary-wing aerial assets.
“We're seeing all flavors of the Russian combined arms force,” he said.
The U.S. message to Russia has been very clear since the start of tensions with Ukraine, Warren said.
“Our message remains, 'Deescalate. Live up to commitments both in Geneva and international norms. Help bring this crisis to an end,'" he said.
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @rouloafps)