MOSCOW, November 21 (Sputnik) — NATO officials admit they have no credible evidence of Russian troops or heavy weaponry crossing the Ukrainian border, Russia's envoy to the alliance said Friday.
"As far as I remember, even NATO officials themselves admit they have no credible materials confirming that Russian weaponry and military vehicles cross the border and that Russian troops are being amassed along the border with Ukraine," Alexander Grushko said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 TV channel.
Russia-NATO relations have deteriorated in light of the crisis in Ukraine, with the alliance accusing Russia of meddling in Ukraine's internal affairs and sending troops to Ukraine. However, NATO's allegations have not been supported by any evidence, and the Russian government has repeatedly denied its involvement in the Ukrainian crisis.
On November 12, NATO said it had observed Russian tanks, artillery and combat troops crossing into Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry denied the claims saying that there was no Russian military presence on the Ukrainian territory.
NATO Turns Baltic States Into De-Facto Area of Standoff With Russia
NATO has been turning Baltic states into an area of military standoff with Russia, Moscow's envoy to the alliance, Alexander Grushko, said Friday.confrontation with Russia, and this is a dead-end track," the diplomat said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 TV.
Over the past few months, the 28-member military bloc has been increasing the number of troops stationed in the Baltic region after a political crisis erupted in Ukraine and Crimea reunified with Russia in March. The US-led alliance has justified its presence close to Russian borders, which Moscow deems "excessive", as its duty to guarantee the security of the allies.
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia entered the military alliance in April 2004. Since Baltic countries do not have the jets necessary for patrolling, the security of their airspace is maintained by NATO, which has planes based in Lithuania at Zokniai, located five kilometers from Siauliai. Amari Air Base near Harjumaa, in Estonia, started hosting NATO aircraft in 2014.
Russia has repeatedly expressed concern over the bloc's expansion in Eastern Europe and the current increase in its military presence close to Russian borders. In late September, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called NATO expansion a "mistake" and a "provocation" that undermines the whole European security system.
Russia to Take Precautions Amid NATO Military Buildup at Borders
Russia will have to respond to the NATO military buildup near Russian borders, Moscow's envoy to NATO Alexander Grushko said Friday.
"It should be clear to NATO that the deployment of a significant military force along our borders, constant drills and exercises will undoubtedly push us into taking certain precautions," he said.
Earlier on Thursday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that NATO had launched its jets twice as often as normal this year due to what he described as Russia's increased air activity in Europe.