By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, YURAS KARMANAU and LORNE COOK
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — NATO allies accused Russia of misleading the world with “disinformation” by saying it was returning some troops to bases, charging that Moscow has instead added as many as 7,000 more troops near its tense border with Ukraine.
With Western fears high that Russia is planning to invade, tensions also spiked Thursday along the line that separates Ukrainian forces from Russia-backed separatists in the country’s east, with the parties accusing each other of intensive shelling.
Asked about Moscow’s troop buildup, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the U.S. and its NATO partners “will closely match Russian words to Russian deeds, what they say to what they actually do.”
“We’ve seen some of those troops inch closer to that border. We see them fly in more combat and support aircraft,” he said at NATO headquarters in Brussels. “We see them sharpen their readiness in the Black Sea. We even see them stocking up their blood supplies. You don’t do these sort of things for no reason, and you certainly don’t do them if you’re getting ready to pack up and go home.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was concerned “that Russia is trying to stage a pretext for an armed attack against Ukraine.”