Ukraine denies report of Russian troop buildup near its borders

FILE PHOTO: A man walks at a crossing point on the border with Russia, after Ukraine's government tightened up measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Hoptivka near Kharkiv, Ukraine March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine’s defense ministry on Monday denied a media report of a Russian military buildup near its border, saying it had not observed an increase in forces or weaponry.

The Washington Post said at the weekend a renewed buildup of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border had raised concern among some officials in the United States and Europe who are tracking what they consider irregular movements of equipment and personnel on Russia’s western flank.

“As of November 1, 2021, an additional transfer of Russian units, weapons and military equipment to the state border of Ukraine was not recorded,” the Ukrainian defense ministry said in a statement.

In Washington, the Pentagon said it was aware of public reports about “unusual activity.”

“We’re certainly monitoring the region closely as we always do so and as we’ve said before, any escalatory or aggressive actions will be of great concern to the United States,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

This spring, Moscow alarmed Kyiv and Western capitals by building up tens of thousands of troops along the border with Ukraine, though it later ordered them back to base.

Relations between Kyiv and Moscow have plummeted since 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and a war broke out between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, which Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Additional reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Sandra Maler)

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