NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday warned Moscow not to increase the number of troops mobilized on the Ukrainian border and expressed the alliance’s unwavering support for Russia’s neighbor.
NATO stands behind Ukraine, Stoltenberg said during a press conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. The Russian moves are unjustified, inexplicable and deeply worrying,” he added.
Read also: Iran accuses Israel of sabotage at Natanz nuclear center
The comments come amid a wave of cease-fire violations in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces have been deadlocked in a conflict since Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.
Stoltenberg said it is the largest military buildup since then. Russia has moved thousands of combat troops to Ukraine’s borders, the largest concentration of Russian troops since the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. In recent days, several Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in eastern Ukraine, he said.
Kuleba was defiant towards Moscow and said Ukraine and its Western partners were better prepared than they were seven years ago: if Moscow takes any reckless steps or starts a new spiral of violence, it will be costly in every way.
Stoltenberg will meet Wednesday with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to assess the situation, among other issues.
Russia must stop this build-up in and around Ukraine, stop its provocations and de-escalate the tension immediately,” Stoltenberg warned.
Read also: China sentences two former Xinjiang officials to death for separatism