NATO reinforces presence in Eastern Europe amid Ukraine tensions
In addition to the NATO maneuvers, Ukrainian authorities are massing forces on the line of contact with the two self-proclaimed republics in the conflict-hit Donbas region
NATO members are increasing military activities in Eastern Europe amid tensions regarding Ukraine, despite Russia's warning that strengthened presence of the alliance near its borders are a "national security threat".
In the past days, Denmark, Spain, France, and the Netherlands have been sending or planning to send ships, planes or troops to NATO's deployments in Eastern Europe, reports Xinhua news agency.
Already present on the ground are the UK, Canada and Germany, NATO said in a statement on Monday.
Also on Monday, the US Department of Defense announced that some 8,500 troops have been put on heightened alert for a possible deployment due to escalating tensions on the Russia-Ukraine border, but there is no decision on formal deployments.
Responding to NATO's move, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Russian military cannot ignore the alliance's increase in military activities as tensions regarding Ukraine have flared up.
In addition to the NATO maneuvers, Ukrainian authorities are massing forces on the line of contact with the two self-proclaimed republics in the conflict-hit Donbas region, he noted.
The threat of provocations by Kiev in the Donbas region in east Ukraine is now higher than ever, the spokesman stressed.
The current escalation of tensions was caused by the US and its NATO allies, who have launched a propaganda campaign full of lies against Russia, Peskov said.
NATO, the US and Ukraine have accused Russia of having assembled heavy troops near the eastern border of Kiev with a possible intention of "invasion".
Denying any intention to attack any country, Russia has warned NATO that its activities near Russia's borders "are a national security threat", while Moscow reserves the right to move forces on its territory.
In another development, the US and the UK are withdrawing some staff and dependents from their embassies in Ukraine, stoking fears that a conflict is looming.
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it considered the US decision "premature and a manifestation of excessive caution".
Ukrainian political analyst Igor Chalenko said the two Western countries have no ample grounds to withdraw some of their staff from their embassies in Kiev as the security situation at the Ukrainian border is relatively stable.
"Considering that there have been no fundamental changes on the Ukrainian borders over the past year (the concentration of Russian troops has even somewhat decreased), today there is no reason to fully support the corresponding step by Washington and London," said Chalenko.
According to the expert, the US and the UK are possibly withdrawing diplomats' families from Kiev in a move to prove the expediency of weapons supplies to Ukraine.
"It can be assumed that such a step with the evacuation is also aimed at leveling the opponents of providing new batches of weapons within these countries," Chalenko said.