Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov shrugged off Ukrainian military accusations of moving assault divisions to Russia’s western borders, noting that Russia has the right to deploy any of its troops to any part of its territory.
“The Russian Federation is free to change the configuration of military forces on its territory in line with what is considered most reasonable,” Peskov told reporters on Monday. He noted, however, that the media should address the defense ministry for more detailed comments on troop movements.
The statement came shortly after Ukrainian Chief of General Staff Viktor Muzhenko wrote on Facebook that Russia had allegedly moved three motorized rifle divisions near its border with Ukraine, adding that the divisions are “assault forces” specially trained and equipped for rapid advance operations.
Muzhenko’s claims come amid preparations for NATO maritime exercises near the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa. The Royal Navy’s HMS Duncan and the Turkish Navy frigate Yildirim arrived in Odessa on Monday, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry wrote on its website. Both ships are expected to remain in Ukrainian waters until July 27.
The British and Turkish warships will participate in more naval drills, including establishing communications with the Ukrainian Navy in times of war or in case of urgent humanitarian operations.
The new NATO exercises in the Black Sea begin just several days after the US, Ukraine, and 14 other nations deployed warships, combat aircraft, and special operations teams for ‘Sea Breeze 2017’ exercises off the Ukrainian coast.
Moscow has long objected to NATO’s large-scale war games near Russian borders, which intensified after the March 2014 referendum in which Crimea voted to reunite with mainland Russia. In February this year, Dmitry Peskov said that such developments were a threat to Russian national security and interests, “Especially as it concerns a third party building up its military presence near our borders.”