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Friday, November 14, 2014

NATO commander: Russian troops, tanks, artillery move into Ukraine

  


Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian troops -- all heading into Ukraine.
 
That's what American Gen. Phillip Breedlove, the commander of NATO forces in Europe, said Wednesday that his government has seen over the past few days -- Moscow's latest such alleged incursion into the nation, parts of which remain in turmoil after months of violence.

Russian officials frequently deny claims that the military has moved into disputed parts of the Ukraine, and this time is no exception. Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov blasted what he called Breedlove's "alarmist anti-Russian allegations."

"We've stressed many a time there are no real facts behind the acts of shaking the air by Brussels officials," Konashenkov said, referring to the Belgian capital, where NATO is based.

  

A day earlier, Breedlove said Russia has moved "forces that are capable of being nuclear" into Crimea, which was Ukrainian territory until being folded into Russia on the heels of a government turnover earlier this year. Crimea borders southeastern Ukraine, where much of the current unrest is focused and into which Russian troops allegedly have moved.

"Whether they are [nuclear-equipped] or not, we don't know," Breedlove, the top U.S. general in Europe, said Tuesday. "But they do have the kind of equipment there that could support that mission if required."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has alluded to his country's nuclear arsenal, amid criticism of Russia's actions. In late August,  that he told a youth forum, "I want to remind you that Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear nations. This is a reality, not just words."

   

Asked specifically about possible nuclear movement into Crimea, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, "NATO releases such statements almost on a daily basis. We have no intention to react and comment on them."

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu did say Wednesday that his military is considering forming "a full-fledged and self-sufficient" unit in Crimea. Those troops' purpose would be "to ensure the military security of the country and its allies," said Shoigu.

"In many respects, this is connected with the situation in Ukraine, with fomentation of anti-Russian moods on the part of NATO and reinforcement of foreign military presence in the immediate vicinity to our borders," the defense minister said.

The OSCE monitors said in one case a vehicle marked "Cargo 200" - Russia's military code for soldiers killed in action - crossed from Russia into Ukraine on Tuesday and later returned.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of sending its soldiers to fight with separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin denies the allegations.

More than 4,000 people have died in the conflict between Ukraine's military and pro-Russian rebels in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Nearly a million people have fled their homes since the fighting started in April, a month after Russia annexed Ukraine's southern Crimea peninsula.

The violence in the east has continued despite a ceasefire deal struck in Minsk, Belarus, in September, with both sides accusing each other of shelling and other violations of the agreement.

 

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