Ukraine Pivots, Sounds Alarm About Around 90K Russian Troops Not Far From Border

Russia could be exerting pressure on one of its ex-Soviet neighbors.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry sent a release saying that about 90,000 Russian troops are stationed close to the border in areas east of the country controlled by rebel forces. This comes two days after Ukraine denied that Russian military personnel were in the area.

The release said that "Russia has periodically deployed and built up troops to maintain tensions in the region and exert political pressure on neighboring countries," according to AP. Russia denied sending troops to eastern Ukraine for any reason.

Earlier this year, there was a reported buildup of troops close to the Ukraine border.

Eastern Ukraine has been a contentious area for years. In 2014, Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula shortly after the Ukrainian Revolution. Over 14,000 people have died as a result of the conflict.

Russian officials said the troops were present due to maneuvers. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that "Russia maintains troops presence on its territory wherever it deems necessary."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Annexed Crimea
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said about 90,000 Russian troops are stationed close to the border in areas east of the country controlled by rebel forces. Above, a local resident cycles pass the base of a Crimean Tatar militia on May 6, 2021 in Chonhar, Ukraine. Chonhar is the crossing point to Russia-annexed Crimea. Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images

The ministry's statement said specifically that units of the Russian 41st army have remained in Yelnya, about 260 kilometers (about 160 miles) north of the Ukrainian border.

On Tuesday, Ukraine's Defense Minister Andriy Taran submitted his resignation and Ukrainian lawmakers quickly approved it Wednesday. Davyd Arakhamia, the head of the parliamentary faction of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's Servant of the People party, said Taran had health problems.

Ukrainian media reported however that Zelenskyy's office was behind the resignation of Taran and four other ministers, who were also dismissed by parliament on Wednesday.

Russia has cast its weight behind a separatist insurgency in Ukraine's east that erupted shortly after Moscow's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

A massive buildup of Russian troops in Russia's west have been fueling fears of an escalation of large-scale hostilities.

Russian officials said that the troops were deployed as part of measures to counter security threats posed by the deployment of NATO forces near Russian borders. Russia and the alliance also have blamed each other for conducting destabilizing military exercises near the borders.

Ukranian Russians in Donetsk
Russian citizens living in Donetsk show their Russian passports sitting in a bus as they cross the Ukrainian-Russian border to vote at a polling station in the Rostov-on-Don region in Russia, in Donetsk, Ukraine, on September 17, 2021. Donetsk is a Ukrainian territory controlled by Russia. AP Photo/Alexandr Dimitrovskiy