Russia still has about 100,000 soldiers deployed near its western border with Ukraine and in annexed Crimea despite Moscow announcing a military pullback last month amid soaring tensions with Kyiv, the head of Ukraine’s state security service has said.
Ivan Bakanov’s comments on Tuesday echoed earlier remarks by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who on Monday accused Russia of having failed to fully withdraw military hardware and troops from the border areas following the two countries’ standoff.
Russia’s military build-up took place against the backdrop of an uptick in fighting in Ukraine’s conflict-stricken eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where government forces have battled Russian-backed separatist forces since the rebels seized a swath of territory there in April 2014.
As part of Moscow’s manoeuvres, Russian military units also conducted exercises in the Black Sea region of Crimea, which was seized from Kyiv in March 2014.
Russia did not publicly declare the number of soldiers it had moved to the border areas, but the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell in mid-April put the figure at more than 100,000.
NATO and the United States – the leading member of the transatlantic security alliance – meanwhile said the build-up was Russia’s largest since it undertook the annexation of Crimea.
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