US ‘escalating tensions’
- Nato sending ships, fighter jets to eastern Europe
- US says some 8,500 troops on alert
- Russia launches new military drills in south, Crimea
Moscow yesterday accused the United States of ratcheting up tensions over Ukraine after Washington put several thousand troops on alert for possible deployment to boost Nato.
The West is accusing Russia, which has massed 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, of preparing a potential invasion of its pro-Western neighbour.
The troop build-up has sparked the biggest crisis in East-West ties since the Cold War, with US President Joe Biden holding a long call with European leaders on Monday.
Biden said there was "total unanimity" on how to deal with Russia, as the Pentagon said 8,500 US troops were being put on standby and Nato said it was sending ships and jets to bolster eastern Europe's defences.
In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said these actions were only adding to an already tense atmosphere.
"The United States is escalating tensions," he told reporters. "We are watching these US actions with great concern."
Russia denies it has any plans to invade Ukraine, where Russia already seized the peninsula of Crimea in 2014 and backs separatists forces in two breakaway regions.
Moscow has instead accused the West of increasing tensions with deployments and support for Ukraine, a former Soviet republic.
It has put forward a list of security demands including for a guarantee that Ukraine never be allowed to join Nato and that alliance forces pull back in Eastern European countries that joined after the Cold War.
The United States and Nato have rejected the demands and told Russia to withdraw from Ukraine's borders, warning that an attack will trigger damaging economic sanctions, as well as a beefed-up Nato presence in eastern Europe.
A series of talks in various European cities this month have failed to ease tensions, though US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed at a meeting in Geneva on Friday to keep talking.
The United States has promised to provide written answers to Moscow's demands this week, but has rejected calls for a ban on possible Nato expansion as a non-starter.