Ukraine has now stationed well over 100,000 troops and large quantities of hardware in the war-torn Donbass region, the Russian Foreign Ministry alleged on Wednesday morning, amid rising tensions.
Speaking at a briefing on Wednesday, diplomatic spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claimed that “the Armed Forces of Ukraine are increasing [their] military force, pulling heavy equipment and personnel.”
“According to some reports, the number of troops… in the conflict zone already reaches 125,000 people, and this, if anyone does not know, is half of the entire composition of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” she said.
Zakharova also condemned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for submitting a bill to the national parliament that would allow units from foreign armed forces to enter the country as part of multinational exercises next year.
According to her, such a move directly contradicts the Minsk agreement, signed in 2014 in a bid to end the fighting between Kiev’s forces and troops loyal to two self-declared breakaway republics.
The broadside from the Russian Foreign Ministry comes amid concerns from the Kremlin surrounding the alleged deployment of American anti-tank missiles in the region close to Russia’s borders.
At the end of November, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence service, Kirill Budanov, said advanced US-made Javelin systems had been tested by Kiev’s troops and had been deployed to Donbass.
A few hours later, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that it was a concerning development that increased the prospect of a full-blown conflict in the region. “In recent weeks, we have seen a stream of consciousness from the Ukrainian leadership – especially when it comes to the military – that is excessively inflamed and dangerous,” he said.
However, Lavrov’s Ukrainian counterpart, Dmitry Kuleba, denied all claims that his country’s troops could soon launch an offensive there and said Kiev’s officials were “committed to finding a political and diplomatic solution to the conflict.”
He accused Russia of increasing “intensity of disinformation, including false accusations that Ukraine is supposedly preparing for a military attack in the Donbass.”
Moscow insists that, in order to implement the Minsk agreement, Kiev must hold talks with the leaders of the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
However, Zelensky has refused to begin negotiations, insisting that the fighters are Russian-backed and calling on President Vladimir Putin to meet with him in the region instead.
The conflict in Eastern Ukraine began following the events of the 2014 Maidan, with the two self-declared Donbass republics announcing they would no longer recognize Kiev’s authority.
Neither Russia nor Ukraine officially recognize them, however, and both sides have said in public that a peaceful settlement to end the stand-off must be found.