Russia Moves 77,000 Troops To Border With Ukraine - Defense Ministry

KIEV, Ukraine -- Russia has deployed 19 battalion tactical groups of the first and second echelons numbering more than 77,000 troops near the border with Ukraine.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak said this in an interview with the government's Uriadovy Kurier newspaper.

"The continuation of aggressive actions in eastern Ukraine is quite anticipated. Moreover, there is a probability that the conflict will escalate into the Kremlin's full-scale aggression. This is the truth that destroys the illusion regarding Russia's refusal to occupy part of our territory and withdraw its troops in the near future. Near our border, it deployed 19 battalion tactical groups of the first and second echelons numbering more than 77,000 people. The groups consist of almost 1,000 tanks, 2,300 combat vehicles, over 1,100 artillery systems and about 400 multiple launch rocket systems," the minister said.

Poltorak said that Russia was not going to refuse to continue armed aggression in eastern Ukraine, as evidenced by Russian military presence in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and the conduct of hostilities against the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

In particular, Ukrainian positions in the conflict zone came under fire more than 15,000 times last year alone.

"The Russian leadership is looking for a way to turn its aggression into a frozen conflict, rather than resolve it. Moreover, Putin's regime is still hoping for the return of our state to the so-called Russian world and for Ukraine's rejection of Euro-Atlantic integration. Moscow is not going to implement the Minsk agreements - it is not part of its plans, as well as the withdrawal of occupation troops from our territory and the return to the Ukrainian side of control over the section of the Ukrainian-Russian state border," he said.

He also emphasized that the Kremlin categorically does not perceive the format of a United Nations peacekeeping force whose activities would neutralize the influence and power of the local occupation regimes under Russia's control.

In his opinion, all "peaceful" initiatives by the aggressor are actually "a fur coat of a sheep" on the body of "a wolf."

Poltorak stressed that Ukraine would continue to support the course for political and diplomatic settlement of the conflict in Donbass.

"At the same time, we can and will use the sovereign right to self-defense. Therefore, our country will operate as part of a complex of political and diplomatic measures, sanctions and other measures aimed at restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine and rebuffing and deterring Russia's armed aggression," he said.

Source: Ukrinform News