U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has raised his deep concerns regarding Russia's continued military deployments in and near Ukraine.
The meeting took place on the margins of the Arctic Council Ministerial on May 19, 2021, according to a statement by Spokesperson Ned Price.
"Secretary Blinken raised our deep concerns regarding Russia's continued military deployments in and near Ukraine, its actions against VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the health of Aleksey Navalny and the repression of opposition organizations, among other issues," reads the report.
Russian military build-up along Ukraine borders, in occupied Crimea
- 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 preparations for military drills.
- Fifteen warships of Russia's Caspian Flotilla entered the Black Sea.
- Russia also relocated Su-25SM3 warplanes from Russia's Stavropol Krai (Territory) to occupied Crimea.
- The United States and many other Western countries, the European Union, NATO expressed their support to Ukraine over these Russian steps.
- 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.
- On April 22, 2021, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said his country would begin the withdrawal of troops, which had taken part in military exercises in occupied Crimea and near the borders of Ukraine, to their permanent bases in the Southern and Western Military Districts.
- On May 6, 2021, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Russian Federation had withdrawn only 3,500 troops from occupied Crimea out of tens of thousands of military personnel deployed on the borders and temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.
Ukraine is seeing no major pullback of Russian troops from the areas bordering the country, said Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. "What we are seeing today is the withdrawal of troops without withdrawal of troops. So we must remain vigilant in this regard," the top diplomat said.