Russia’s military is continuing to buildup on its border with Ukraine, and there are now more than 100,000 troops at the Ukrainian border according to Josep Borrell, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
“The Russian military buildup on the Ukrainian border is very concerning,” Borrell said during a Monday press conference. “It is more than 100,000 Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian borders and in Crimea. The risk of further escalation is evident.”
During his press conference remarks, he said there were currently 150,000 Russian troops massed along the Ukrainian border, but that figure was revised down to 100,000 in an official E.U. transcript of his remarks.
Borrell said, “We have to commend the Ukraine for its restrained response and we urge Russia to deescalate and to diffuse tensions.”
During his remarks, Borrell also said no new economic sanctions or expulsions of Russian diplomats have been planned at this time. Borrell gave that sanctions update a week after Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for support from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and asked the E.U. to impose new sanctions against Russia during a NATO press conference.
Borrell’s comments come as thousands of Russian troops and dozens of military vehicles have been seen gathering near the Ukrainian border over the course of several weeks. Russia began its troop buildup after a set of March military drills. Numerous videos have been posted to social media, showing Russian tanks and other heavy armored vehicles traveling by train, while lighter military vehicles traveled by roadway and helicopters flew into the border region.
Around 4,000 additional Russian troops remained along the Ukrainian border after the drills concluded on March 23, and Russian troops have continued to pour in over the course of the ensuing days and weeks.
In late March, the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) reportedly raised its threat levels in Europe to a “potential imminent crisis.”
Last week, amid the ongoing Russian troop buildup, President Joe Biden unveiled a series of new sanctions against Russia. The Biden administration also canceled a planned deployment of two U.S. warships into the Black Sea, which neighbors Russia and Ukraine.
After a Turkish official publicly announced the U.S. had withdrawn a notice to pass through the Bosporus Strait to enter the Black Sea, Russia’s military cut off access to the Kerch Strait which serves as a key access point to the Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk. Russia’s closure of the Ukrainian waterway will reportedly continue until October of 2021. The Ukrainian Navy also reported Russian watercraft harrassed its ships operating within 25 miles of the Kerch Strait on Thursday.
On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced Russia would expel 10 U.S. diplomats from Russia and block eight more current and former U.S. diplomats from traveling to Russia, in retaliation to the Biden administration’s actions. During the announcement, Lavrov said Russia is considering an offer from the Biden administration to hold a summit in a third party country and discuss easing tensions between the two countries.