Russia will soon have more than 120,000 troops on Ukraine’s border, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Tuesday, calling for new Western economic sanctions on Moscow.
Kyiv, Washington and NATO have been alarmed by the large build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine and in Crimea, the peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Western officials say the concentration of forces is now larger than during that annexation.
“Russian troops continue to arrive in close proximity to our borders in the northeast, in the east and in the south. In about a week, they are expected to reach a combined force of over 120,000 troops,” Kuleba told an online news conference.
“This does not mean they will stop building up their forces at that number,” Kuleba said, warning of what he said was Moscow’s unpredictability although he said Ukraine did not want conflict with Russia.
The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said on Monday that Russia had concentrated more than 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s border and in Crimea. read more
Kuleba also called for Moscow to re-commit to a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, where Russia has supported separatist forces in a conflict that began in 2014.
Russia has said the build-up is a three-week snap military drill to test combat readiness in response to what it calls threatening behaviour from NATO. It has said the exercise is due to wrap up within two weeks.
Kuleba attended a video conference with EU foreign ministers and said he openly “called on colleagues to start considering a new round of sectoral sanctions against Russia”.
He said he did not feel EU ministers were ready for such a move but he told them that individual sanctions on Russian officials were insufficient.