MOSCOW -The Kremlin on Sunday accused the West of artificially whipping up tensions around Ukraine with repeated statements suggesting Russia was poised to launch an attack on its neighbour and told Washington and its allies to stop a military build-up nearby.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday his country has real concerns, widely shared with partners in Europe, over Russian activities at the Ukrainian border, after Ukraine said it feared Russia might be preparing an attack.
U.S., NATO and Ukrainian officials have been making similar statements for nearly two weeks, referring to what they say are unusual Russian troop movements in the proximity of Ukraine.
The head of Ukraine’s military intelligence told the Military Times outlet this weekend that Russia had more than 92,000 troops amassed around Ukrainian borders and is preparing for an attack by the end of January or beginning of February.
Kyrylo Budanov said such an attack would likely involve air strikes, artillery and armoured attacks followed by airborne assaults in the east, amphibious assaults in Odessa and Mariupol and a smaller incursion through neighboring Belarus,
Moscow has dismissed such suggestions as inflammatory and complained about what it says is increasing activity in the region by the NATO alliance.
In comments due to be broadcast later on Sunday on state TV, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “a provocation” in the area could not be ruled out given all the U.S. rhetoric.
“This hysteria is being artificially whipped up. We are being accused of some kind of unusual military activity on our territory by those who have brought in their armed forces from across the ocean. That is, the United States of America,” Peskov said.
“It’s not really logical or polite.”
Peskov suggested Ukraine was probably looking for a way to solve its own problems by force.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and Russian-backed separatists seized a swath of eastern Ukraine that same year.
Peskov said Russia wanted NATO to stop “concentrating a military fist” near Russia’s own borders and to stop arming Ukraine with modern weapons.
The Kremlin said in September that NATO would cross a Russian red line if it expanded its military infrastructure in Ukraine.
A ship carrying two refitted former U.S. Coast Guard patrol boats designed to beef up the Ukrainian Navy transited the Dardanelles strait on Saturday.
Ukraine, which strives to become a NATO member, received a large consignment of U.S. ammunition earlier this year and Javelin anti-tank missiles, prompting criticism from Moscow.
(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov, additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv; Editing by Andrew Osborn, William Maclean)