On Monday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance “stands with Ukraine” amid tensions with Russia over an alleged Russian troop build-up near the border with Ukraine.
Earlier this month, Ukraine denied media reports that said Russia was building up troops in the region. Now, Ukraine claims there are about 100,000 Russian troops in Western Russia. It’s not clear if the number is accurate or if the military build-up has anything to do with Ukraine.
For their part, Russia insists its military movement inside its own borders is not meant as a threat to anyone and points to increasing US and NATO activity in the Black Sea as the source of tensions in the region.
Stoltenberg delivered the warning to Russia during a press conference in Brussels alongside Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Ukraine is not a NATO member but is considered a prospective one and has stepped up cooperation with the alliance since the 2014 US-backed coup in Kyiv.
When asked about NATO activity in the Black Sea Stoltenberg claimed it was “defensive” military activity. “NATO’s presence in the Black Sea region, in the Baltic region is a defensive presence. We have increased our military presence in the Eastern part of the Alliance since 2014,” he said.
Also on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron. Macron’s office said the French leader expressed to Putin France’s willingness to “defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
The Kremlin said that Putin “drew attention to the provocative nature of the large scale exercises led by the United States and its allies in the Black Sea which are increasing tensions between Russia and NATO.”