Russia’s deployment of its armed forces along the border with Ukraine amid the worsening situation in the Donbas "should not worry anyone," said Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov at a briefing on Thursday.
"The Russian Federation is moving troops within its own territory at its discretion, it does not pose any threat to anyone," Peskov told a Ukrainian journalist when asked about the reasons for the transfer of military personnel and weapons.
According to him, "Russia has to be on alert due to the increased activity of the armed forces of NATO countries as well as other military associations and individual countries."
Peskov reiterated the Kremlin's official position on Donbas, which is that there is a "civil war" and "an internal Ukrainian conflict."
"As for the participation of Russian troops in the armed conflict in Ukraine, Russian troops have never taken part in it and do not take part in it," Interfax quoted Peskov as saying.
On Tuesday, the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Ruslan Khomchak, said that Russia is amassing its troops along Ukrainian borders. According to him, the Russian forces are concentrated in the Rostov, Bryansk and Voronezh regions. 28 battalion tactical groups of the Russian Armed Forces are stationed there, and 25 more groups are expected to arrive.
The same information was confirmed to The New York Times by the Pentagon. According to estimates of the U.S. military, Russia has moved an additional 4,000 soldiers as well as weapons and equipment to the regions bordering Ukraine.
Due to the buildup of Russian troops near Donbas, the U.S. European Command has raised the watch level to the maximum ("potential inevitable crisis").
There is no consensus in the United States on what exactly Vladimir Putin is up to, The New York Times sources say. Some believe that the Kremlin will not go further, others are concerned about the vagueness of Moscow's intentions and fear that a possible operation in the Donbas could quickly lead to serious consequences.
The escalation of tensions in the Donbas has been gaining momentum for the second month. Since the beginning of the year, according to official data, 15 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed on the front line, while from July to December last year there were only four dead.