High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Josep Borrell says the EU sees the risk of further escalation near the borders of Ukraine, since Russia has pulled together the largest number of troops in the entire period of its aggression.
Borrell announced this in Brussels after an informal meeting of the Council of the European Union at the level of foreign ministers of 27 EU member states with the participation of Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, according to an UNIAN correspondent.
The European diplomat noted that the situation on the Ukrainian border is "very, very worrisome."
"It is more than 150,000 Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian borders and in Crimea. The risk of further escalation is evident," he said.
According to him, Russia is deploying its troops with all types of logistics support, including all types of military weapons.
"The military deployment of the Russian troops with all kind of materials, deploying field hospitals and all kinds of warfare has been continuing. I cannot tell you where this figure comes from but it is my reference figure. It is the highest military deployment of the Russian army in the Ukrainian borders ever. It is clear that it is a matter of concern, because when you deploy a lot of troops a spark can jump here or there," he said.
Borrell expressed the hope that the deployment of Russian troops would stop and they would be withdrawn from the border according to the request addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin by, among others, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Joe Biden.
At the same time, he said, Ukraine should be commended for the restrained response.
"We urge Russia to de-escalate and to defuse tensions. The message of all Ministers has been very much clear: a complete reiteration of strong support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.
According to him, it includes the non-recognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea and the request for the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. "We will continue supporting the efforts of the Normandy format," he said.
"We welcomed increased diplomatic efforts aimed at restoring Ukraine's territorial integrity," he summed up.
On April 19, 2021, the EU Council at the level of foreign ministers discussed the situation along the Ukrainian-Russian border.
Before the meeting, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Josep Borrell called on Russia to withdraw its troops from the Ukrainian border.
Lithuania's Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, in turn, said that the European Union was ready to impose sanctions against the Russian Federation in the event of the outbreak of new hostilities on the border with Ukraine.
Russian troops amassing along Ukraine's borders
- On March 30, 2021, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Colonel-General Ruslan Khomchak said Russia had deployed 28 battalion tactical groups along the state border of Ukraine and in the temporarily occupied territories. It is also said to be planning to bring up to 25 battalion tactical groups under the guise of preparing for military drills. Such actions pose a threat to Ukraine's military security.
- According to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, enemy troops are reinforcing their advanced units with reconnaissance teams and sniper pairs, involving Russian army instructors in personnel training. Russia-led forces' artillery units are reportedly on full alert in certain districts, including villages and towns in occupied Ukrainian territory.
- On March 31, 2021, The New York Times reported Russia was pulling 4,000 troops to the border with Ukraine.
- Footage was shared on the Internet, showing a train with Russian military hardware en route along the Kerch Strait bridge to occupied Crimea.
- The U.S. European Command raised its alert status to the highest level after fighting had resumed between Russia-led forces and Ukrainian troops in Donetsk region.
- The U.S. Department of Defense said it was "aware of Russian troop movements" on Ukraine's borders and was concerned about recent escalations of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine.
- The United States, finding reports of Russian military movements on Ukraine's border credible, asked Moscow to explain the "provocations" and is ready to engage on the situation.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow was trying to put pressure on Kyiv by amassing its military forces along the Russian-Ukrainian border.
- On April 8, 2021, Khomchak assured the situation was under control, and the Ukrainian military was ready to respond to the escalation both in the temporarily occupied territory of Luhansk and Donetsk regions and along the entire Ukrainian-Russian border.