Ukraine: 100 000 Russian troops near border

2014-03-27 17:56
(Andrew Lubimov, AP)

(Andrew Lubimov, AP)

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Washington - Nearly 100 000 Russian forces have massed on Ukraine's border, a top Ukrainian defence official told an American audience on Thursday, giving a number far higher than US military estimates.

"Almost 100 000 soldiers are stationed on the borders of Ukraine and in the direction... of Kharkiv, Donetsk, " Andriy Parubiy, chairperson of Ukraine's national security council, said via a webcast from Kiev.

"Russian troops are not in Crimea only, they are along all Ukrainian borders. They're in the south, they're in the east and in the north," Parubiy said.

After its intervention in the Crimean peninsula, Russia is plotting to foment separatist sentiment elsewhere and Kiev fears a possible incursion in the country's east, he told the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

Parubiy said Ukraine was braced for invasion any day now.

Pentagon officials have previously said more than 20 000 Russian troops - including airborne units and armoured vehicles - have deployed along Ukraine's border, a substantial force large enough to seize control of the eastern region.

But a senior defence official expressed scepticism at Parubiy's estimate of Russian troop strength.

"That sounds too high," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

Parubiy said the Ukrainian government supported moves by Western countries to impose punitive sanctions on Russia and appealed for a public display of military partnership to send a signal to Moscow over its actions.

"We are calling on our partners to hold a common military exercise" that would "show that the cooperation and partnership is still there", he said through an interpreter.

He urged "visible support, visible presence of our partners" at this moment of crisis.

He also said the Russian troops that have deployed in Crimea were well-trained special forces.

Read more on:    russia  |  ukraine
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