Austin: Moscow should explain its troop accumulation near Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. officials aren’t sure why Russian President Vladimir Putin is building military forces near the border with eastern Ukraine, but look at it as another example of annoying military moves that require Moscow’s clarification, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday .

“We will continue to call on Russia to act responsibly and be more transparent about the accumulation of forces around the Ukrainian border,” Austin said at a Pentagon press conference, adding, “We are not sure exactly what Mr. Putin is up to.”

He said the build-up of troops has the Pentagon’s attention and that the Russians should be “more transparent about what they are doing.”

Austin also criticized Russia for using a missile to fire one of its old satellites on Monday, an act that created hundreds of space debris that U.S. officials said would be a long-term danger to space operations.

“What’s most troubling about that is the danger it creates for the international community,” Austin said. “It undermines strategic stability, and as you know, there is now a debris field that will be there forever. And it’s a safety concern. And so we would call on Russia to act more responsibly going forward. “

Austin’s language about Russia’s use of an anti-satellite missile was softer than that of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who called the move “dangerous and irresponsible.” Blinken said on Monday it had shown that Russia wants to “prevent the exploration and use of outer space by all nations.”

Russia’s Ministry of Defense on Tuesday confirmed the destruction of a malfunctioning satellite that has been in orbit since 1982, but insisted that “the United States certainly knows that the resulting fragments, in terms of test time and orbital parameters, will not and will not pose a threat to orbital stations. , spacecraft and spacecraft. ” He called the remarks of U.S. officials “hypocritical.”

The Russian military buildup near Ukraine is perhaps a greater concern. The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine said last week that about 90,000 Russian soldiers are stationed not far from the border and in rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine.

Russia has backed a separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine that erupted shortly after Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine in 2014 and left more than 14,000 people dead.

Earlier this year, a massive build-up of Russian troops in western Russia aroused concern in Ukraine and the West, prompting fears of escalating hostilities. Russian officials said the soldiers were deployed for training, launching them as part of initiatives to counter security threats posed by the deployment of NATO forces near Russian borders.

Robert Burns, The Associated Press

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