Russia has denied NATO claims that its army has crossed into eastern Ukraine in the past few days, calling them groundless, the Defense Ministry said.
“We have stopped paying attention to the groundless accusations made by NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, US General Philip Breedlove, of the ‘observed’ Russian military columns allegedly invading Ukraine,” said Defense Ministry official representative, General-Major Igor Konashenkov on Wednesday.
He gave a reminder of earlier and similar NATO claims, which have not been backed by any evidence.
“[We have] repeatedly stressed that there was and is no evidence supporting Brussels’ regular trumpeting over the alleged presence of Russian forces in Ukraine,” Konashenkov said.
NATO: ‘Russian troops in Ukraine – but we have no good picture’
Earlier on Wednesday, General Breedlove declared that NATO had “seen” the Russian army crossing the Ukraine border.
“Across the last two days we have seen the same thing that OSCE is reporting. We have seen columns of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops entering into Ukraine,” Breedlove told journalists in Sofia.
Although he added that NATO does not:
“have a good picture at this time of how many. We agree that there are multiple columns that we have seen.”
NATO has previously made numerous statements of the kind, but failed to provide any concrete evidence.
In one such case in August, after Kiev accused Moscow of alleged invasion, NATO made satellite images public, saying that were “proof” that Russian artillery was on Ukrainian territory. The images also allegedly showed about 1,000 Russian troops taking part in special operations in eastern Ukraine. The images were provided by a commercial company, DigitalGlobe, operating civilian satellites.
At that time, Konashenkov ridiculed the so-called NATO proof, adding that this time NATO officials were even hesitant to put their names on it.
“You know, it has become ridiculous… If earlier, someone would at least put their names on those images, be it Breedlove, [NATO former Secretary General Anders Fogh] Rasmussen, or even [NATO spokeswoman Oana] Lungescu, now, they are hesitant,” Konashenkov said then, as cited by RIA Novosti. “It makes no sense to comment seriously on this.”
Martin McCauley, author and Russian analyst from the University of London, noted that Russia is entitled to do what it likes inside its borders.
“There have always been military units [on Russian territory near the Ukrainian border]. They always engage in exercise,” McCauley told RT. “But of course if you are on the Ukrainian side, you see all the military exercises across the border in Russia, you put two and two together and perhaps get five and say: ‘Ah, they are preparing to attack us.’”