MOSCOW, June 20 (RIA Novosti) – Moscow is surprised by allegations of a buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine, saying it is only taking measures backed by European leaders to better protect its border, a Kremlin spokesman said Friday.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Russia had to tighten security at the Ukrainian border "because it is being increasingly violated, including by military vehicles."
"We are surprised by statements of alleged deployment of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine. In this case, there is no military buildup, there are only measures to strengthen the border security of the Russian Federation, measures taken on direct instructions from Russian president," Peskov said.
"[The instructions] were given several weeks ago, and they were made public and received a positive response from European leaders," the spokesman added.
“As for the troop numbers, this is defined by the need to ensure the due level of border security,” Peskov said.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday the alliance has seen a few thousand Russian troops at Ukraine’s border, but cannot determine what mission the troops have. Ukraine’s Border Service said Russian troops have been gathering in the border area with Ukraine.
On May 19, President Putin ordered the return of all troops involved in drills in the Rostov, Belgorod and Bryansk regions on the border with Ukraine to their permanent bases to continue military training. NATO later confirmed the withdrawal.
In late May, General Valery Gerasimov, the Russian military’s chief of the general staff, said troops near the border with Ukraine would return to their bases in around 20 days.