Russian troops still in, around Ukraine: NATO chief

TEHRAN, May 07 (MNA) – The Secretary-General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg has said that tens of thousands of Russian troops remain in and around Ukraine.

"We have seen some reduction in the number of Russian troops, but tens of thousands remain, and we are also seeing that Russia has kept a lot of weapons ... and equipment," said Stoltenberg in a doorstep statement ahead of a meeting of the EU defense ministers in Brussels, according to Anadolu Agency English-language webiste.

The NATO chief also said that Russia was also imposing restrictions in the Black Sea, including on access to the Sea of Azov through the Kerch Strait, adding that NATO should remain vigilant and closely monitor the developments.

Stoltenberg also welcomed the inclusion of the US, Canada, and Norway in the EU's Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

As part of the NATO exercise Steadfast Defender 2021, NATO is deploying thousands of troops in Romania, he also said, adding that this "demonstrates how we mobilize and exercise NATO troops, and also how we're able to deploy them across Europe."

"And as part of this exercise, there are soldiers from the United Kingdom, from the United States, from Turkey, so it demonstrates also the importance of moving NATO troops quickly through Europe and that's also a reason why military mobility is so important," he further pointed out.

Russia believes the United States and NATO are escalating military tensions in Europe. According to some reports, the increase in Russian forces near the Ukrainian border is part of exercises in response to NATO's intimidating behavior.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu recently said Russia had not pulled back forces because of external pressure, and that Moscow moved troops around on its own territory as it saw fit.

“The actions of the US and NATO in the European region to increase the combat readiness of troops and strengthen their forward presence is contributing to an increase in military danger,” Shoigu said in comments circulated by the defense ministry.


News Code 173081


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