New Delhi: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says it appears Russia is continuing its military build-up on the border with Ukraine, despite Moscow’s claim it was sending some troops back to base, media reports said.
“We have heard signs from Moscow about readiness to continue diplomatic efforts, but so far we have not seen any de-escalation on the ground. On the contrary, it appears that Russia continues the military build-up,” Stoltenberg said on Wednesday, CNN reported.
“We will continue to convey a very clear message to Russia that we are ready to sit down and discuss with them, but at the same time, we are prepared for the worst.”
Stoltenberg’s remarks come just a day after Russia announced that some troops from its southern and western military districts had begun returning to their bases following exercises, although Moscow has said that military drills will continue to be held, CNN reported.
Ahead of a meeting of NATO defense ministers on Wednesday, Stoltenberg had stressed that NATO remains hopeful that Russia will engage in “meaningful dialogue” and choose to pursue diplomacy rather than confrontation.
“We are closely monitoring and following what they’re doing,” he said. “If they really start to withdraw forces, that’s something we will welcome, but that remains to be seen,” he said.
The Secretary General noted that NATO has observed a steady increase in Russia’s military capabilities near the Ukrainian border over the last few weeks and months, with “well over 100,000” troops believed to be near the border.
“Russia retains the capability of a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine, without any warning time,” he added, the report said.