News / Europe

Russia Again Boosts Troop Levels on Ukraine Border

  • A pro-Russian separatist rebel guards a checkpoint near the village of Rozsypne in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region August 4, 2014.
  • Ukrainian servicemen wave as they drive past in an armoured vehicle in the eastern Ukrainian town of Kramatorsk, Aug. 5, 2014.
  • A Ukrainian army military armored vehicle is seen through a ruined building on the outskirts of Slovyansk, Aug. 5, 2014.
  • Wreckage lies near a pro-Russian separatist checkpoint at the site of the downed Malaysian airliner MH17 near the village of Rozsypne, in the Donetsk region, Aug. 4, 2014.
  • Dutch and Australian forensic experts continue recovery work at the site of the downed Malaysian airliner MH17 near the village of Rozsypne, in the Donetsk region, Aug. 4, 2014.
  • Pro-Russian separatists stand near Dutch and Australian forensic experts preparing to continue recovery work near the village of Rozsypne, in the Donetsk region, Aug. 4, 2014.
  • A pro-Russian separatist looks through binoculars as Dutch and Australian forensic experts continue recovery work at the site of the downed Malaysian airliner MH17 near the village of Rozsypne, in the Donetsk region, Aug. 4, 2014.
  • Dutch and Australian forensic experts continue recovery work near the village of Rozsypne, in the Donetsk region, Aug. 4, 2014.
  • A makeshift evidence marker at the site of the downed Malaysian airliner MH17, near the village of Rozsypne, in the Donetsk region, Aug. 4, 2014.
VOA News

Russia has again bolstered its troops presence on its frontier with Ukraine’s east, triggering concerns of cross-border fire or a possible intervention in support of pro-Moscow rebels increasingly besieged by Ukrainian government forces.

The spike in troop and military hardware levels has been confirmed by both NATO and US military officials.

"In early August, Russia significantly increased the number of troops in the vicinity of the Russian border.  Our current assessment is that around 20,000 troops are now in the area.  This troop presence includes tanks, infantry, artillery, air defense systems, as well as logistics troops, special forces, and various aircraft," a NATO official said in a written statement.

More firepower

A spokesman for Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, Andriy Lysenko, said Tuesday that Russia has deployed 45,000 troops to the border - along with a large number of tanks, artillery, multiple rocket launchers and aircraft.

He also said that Russian forces fired artillery and Grad rockets at Ukrainian positions across the border for several hours on Monday.

In addition, Moscow has announced a five-day drill inside Russian territory, involving some 100 warplanes, helicopters and anti-aircraft batteries. Some of the exercises are being conducted close to Russia’s border with Ukraine.

With Ukrainian troops advancing toward the two remaining rebel strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk, officials in Kyiv have expressed concern over a possible Russian offensive. Short of a full-blown military incursion, Russia might also be considering sending its forces as “peacekeepers” into eastern Ukraine, officials in Kyiv say.

Ukrainian government troops have been steadily gaining ground since the country elected a new president in late May.

Putin on sanctions

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin says he has ordered his Cabinet to prepare a response to Western sanctions.

During a meeting with Alexei Gordeyev, the governor of the Voronezh region near Ukraine, Putin said the use of "political instruments of pressure" against Russia's economy are "unacceptable" and contradict "all norms and rules." He said, however, that any retaliatory measures in response to the sanctions must be taken "very carefully," to support domestic producers without harming consumers.

The United States and its allies have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and support of the separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Hijacking ambulances

Meanwhile, a leading human rights group has accused pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine’s east of aggravating the humanitarian crisis triggered by the four-month-old conflict.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch issued a statement Tuesday saying rebel attacks on medical personnel and facilities have "compromised the ability of civilian patients to receive treatment."  The group says separatist forces have stolen and destroyed medical equipment and hospital furniture, and hijacked ambulances and used them to transport their fighters.

Human Rights Watch also says at least two medical workers have been killed in mortar attacks that were likely carried out by Ukrainian forces.
 
Ukraine’s Defense and Security Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters Monday the military has opened humanitarian corridors for Donetsk residents to flee a planned government offensive, and that steps are being taken to assist evacuees find temporary shelter.

MH17 recovery

Ukraine, Washington and its European allies accuse Moscow of arming rebels and having provided them with the missile battery used to bring down a Malaysian airliner last month.

Both Russia and the rebels in Ukraine have denied involvement.

The jetliner with 298 people on board was downed July 17 near Donetsk.  There were no survivors.

Search teams on Monday continued their efforts to locate remains of more victims from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, most of whom where Dutch nationals.

The head of the Dutch police mission working at the crash site says crews have finished searching one of five zones of the site.  He said completing the search will take at least three weeks.

VOA's Jeff Seldin has contributed to this report from the Pentagon; additional information provided by Reuters.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: meanbill from: USA
August 05, 2014 11:03 PM
THE WISE MAN said it;.... Putin doesn't want to make the pro-Russian separatist region of Ukraine, a part of Russia, (and), he has repeatedly said for the Ukraine government to call a ceasefire, and negotiate with the pro-Russian separatist, who wanted an autonomous Russian speaking region in Ukraine..... not in Russia.

IF ONLY the US, EU, and NATO countries hadn't interfered in Ukraine, the Ukrainians wouldn't be at war, and Crimea would still be a part of Ukraine.....

IF ONLY?... Every time the US, EU, and NATO countries interfere in the politics of other countries like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and now Ukraine, they bring nothing but violence, destruction, killings and wars, that never seem to end.....


by: DellStator from: US
August 05, 2014 9:26 PM
Everyone that thinks Russia has anything to learn from anyone hasn't read much history.
Russia was very happy being the USSR, the leaders lived a life of luxury, the people suffered. THAT IS RUSSIA. It is what Russians expect, indeed want apparently. The state keeps them barely alive, but they don't have to think, to strive, to make choices, except who to bribe for a better job, better housing, better food.
Didn't you notice Russias first response to the first effective Euro Zone sanctions was to A. Have the Russian Mercs shoot down an airliner - followed by banning food imports into Russia.
Got it now?


by: Richard Mc from: North Carolina
August 05, 2014 2:49 PM
I wonder what the Russians will say when they find out that Putin is financing a lot of this by dipping into the Russian Pension Fund?

In Response

by: Igor from: Russia
August 06, 2014 9:55 PM
I think you are wrong because Russia can do business with other emerging countries such as India, China, Latin and South Americas...So we still live well. Also, we will stop our co-operation with the West in all other issues such as Space, anti-terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons....You will create golden business opportunites for others when you leave Russian market.

In Response

by: Richard Mc from: 3155 Ross
August 06, 2014 8:39 AM
Igor: That is a problem. However, since the US economy is 7 times that of Russia and the EU economy is 8 times that of Russia, Russia is likely to go broke much earlier.

In Response

by: Sergei from: WA
August 06, 2014 1:47 AM
Russians know this already. But their relations with their government doesn't look like "shareholders vs executives", like in the US. It's more like "Predators vs prey". Stronger types tend to identify themselves with predators, for example they looking for work in the various national security/police forces, army and bureaucracy. Weaker ones tend to evade, hide and adapt.

In Response

by: Igor from: Russia
August 05, 2014 11:44 PM
I cannot imagine what the americans will say when they find out that Obama is receiving huge amount of money from weapon producers in the USA in order to instigate wars in the Middle East and Europe. Ukraine would be a huge market for US mass killing weapons.


by: max ajida from: pretoria South Africa
August 05, 2014 2:44 PM
Putin must learn from History, Adolf Hitler. Military prowess won't make you a leader but your constructive attitudes towards others will make you a natural leader. Putin lacks knowledge that the bank is mightier than tanks. Russian economy might be on recesion soon due to sanctions and instead of preventing the downfall of Russian economy ,Putin is putting troops along the boarders with Ukrain, an act of intimidation. Kyiv will defeat your rebels in their territory without fear.

In Response

by: Michael from: S-Pb
August 06, 2014 12:19 AM
I think that you need to teach history! In France and Poland were the banks and they were very quickly fought for and won, the USSR did not have banks and defeated Germany.


by: Sunny Enwerem from: Lagos Nigeria
August 05, 2014 1:24 PM
Here comes Putin's consequence which is putting Russian troops clearly inside Ukraine in the guise of peace keepers and a clear plan to keep them well inside Ukraine as its bargaining chip against the sanctions, only if the US and EU could triple its current sanctions on Putin and Russia as a clear sign of strength against the aggressors.


by: skip from: Lugansk
August 05, 2014 11:36 AM
Rebels?? Rebelling against whom?? These are Russian mercenary invaders. This war may have begun with local rebels, but it's time the media recognized everything has changed. Also, we know it's the terrorists who are shelling Lugansk, not the Ukrainian military, though they're blamed. Why? Obviously, then Putin can release his "peacekeepers" to "save" the city.


by: Richard Mc from: North Carolina
August 05, 2014 11:12 AM
Russia would do well to remember Afghanistan. In a recent poll 10% of Ukrainians have said they would fight in the resistance. The Ukraine could easily become 10 Afghanistans for Russia.

In Response

by: Michael from: S-Pb
August 06, 2014 12:25 AM
You somehow repeat all the mistakes of the USSR in Afghanistan. We won in Chechnya. There is now peace and new homes. You're responsible for what's going ito in Libya, Iraq, and what will happen in Afghanistan after you leave.

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