U.S. Sends Strongly Worded Message to Russia Over Troop Numbers at Ukraine Border

U.S. government officials have expressed their disapproval after Russia added troops close to the Ukraine border.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry said last Wednesday that about 90,000 Russian troops are stationed near the border and in eastern Ukraine's rebel-controlled areas, according to an Associated Press report.

Preparing to speak to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and other officials Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the Biden administration is watching the situation at the border very closely.

Karen Donfried, assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia, told the AP she and CIA Director William Burns traveled to Moscow last week to personally warn Kremlin officials of the consequences of threatening Ukraine's security.

"Any time we see unusual Russian military activity near Ukraine we make clear that any escalatory or aggressive action is of great concern to the United States," Donfried said. "We're very clear that we support Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and that our commitment to that has not changed and is unwavering and that we will continue to stand with Ukraine and we will condemn any Russian aggression against Ukraine in all its forms."

While Donfried did not specify exactly what these consequences could be, the AP noted that administration officials have suggested the idea of boosting Ukraine's military support in the past.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will be meeting with Ukrainian officials Wednesday. Above, Blinken speaks during a U.S.-Egypt strategic dialogue with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at the State Department, on November 8 in Washington. Alex Brandon, Pool/AP Photo

Speaking of the Moscow meetings, which officials have said included a conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin and one of his most influential advisers, she said, "Director Burns was effective in sending the messages that he thought it was appropriate to send."

"The indication of how they processed the information that was shared? The 'proof will be in the pudding', as we say," Donfried said. "We will continue to watch very closely what the Russians are doing on Ukraine's border."

A day after Burns and Donfried visited Moscow, Ukraine complained that Russia has kept tens of thousands of troops not far from the countries' border after war games, as part of an attempt to exert pressure on its ex-Soviet neighbor.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry said that units of the Russian 41st army have remained in Yelnya, about 160 miles north of the Ukrainian border.

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 and has left more than 14,000 people dead. Russia has repeatedly denied any presence of its troops in eastern Ukraine.

Earlier this year, a massive buildup of Russian troops in the Russia's west raised concern in Ukraine and in the West, fueling fears of an escalation of large-scale hostilities.

Russian officials said the troops were deployed for maneuvers, casting them 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.

Ukraine, Russia, protest
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine increase as Russia adds more troops to the border. Above, Right Sector activists, a far-right movement, march in a rally outside the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev on November 4. Photo by Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images