When asked in an interview about the recent Russian troop movements near the Ukrainian border that have stoked fears of an invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia was conducting military exercises in its own territory.
Speaking with NBC News, Putin said NATO routinely conducts military exercises near the Russian border and referred to U.S. military exercises in Alaska, which he said were near Russian territory.
"Imagine if we sent our troops into direct proximity to your borders," Putin said. "What would have been your response?"
As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reported earlier, Russia never completed a full withdrawal of its forces from Ukraine borders so the level of military threat remains high.
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- In March 2021, Russia deployed 28 battalion tactical groups along the state border of Ukraine and in the temporarily occupied territories. It is also said to be planning to bring up to 25 battalion tactical groups under the guise of preparations for military drills.
- Fifteen warships of Russia's Caspian Flotilla entered the Black Sea. Russia also relocated Su-25SM3 warplanes from Russia's Stavropol Krai (Territory) to occupied Crimea.
- On April 22, 2021, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said his country would begin the withdrawal of troops, which had taken part in military exercises in occupied Crimea and near the borders of Ukraine, to their permanent bases in the Southern and Western Military Districts.
- On May 6, 2021, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Russian Federation had withdrawn only 3,500 troops from occupied Crimea out of tens of thousands of military personnel deployed on the borders and temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.
- On May 13, the U.S. Mission to the OSCE said Russia had deployed a variety of heavy weaponry to occupied Crimea, including T-72B3 battle tanks, 120mm mortars, 122mm howitzers, and armored vehicles.
Reporting by Yevgeny Matyushenko