MOSCOW, August 15 (RIA Novosti) – Russia has deployed mobile teams of border guards to the vicinity of the border with Ukraine, but they are to operate strictly on the Russian side, a spokesman for Russia’s FSB Border Guard Service said Friday.
The spokesman said that residents of the border territories are under threat due to increased numbers of Ukrainian servicemen crossing into Russia and frequent cross-border shelling.
“They [border guard groups] are operating solely on the territory of Russia. In this regard, the reports about a group of Russian servicemen crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border are completely untrue,” the spokesman said.
On Thursday, a number of foreign news agencies reported that a convoy of military vehicles with Russian license plates crossed into Ukraine via the Izvarino border checkpoint. Earlier on Friday, the UNN information agency, citing the Anti-Terrorist Center operating under the Security Service of Ukraine, reported that the reports had been confirmed. According to preliminary accounts of the alleged incident, the vehicles were carrying armed servicemen.
The Ukrainian government has long blamed Russia for funneling heavy equipment, arms and troops across the border with Ukraine to support the independence movement in the country’s eastern regions, a claim Moscow has repeatedly rejected.
Last week, Pengaton spokesman John Kirby said Russia had amassed 10,000 troops on the border with Ukraine. Shortly after, NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said 20,000 servicemen had already been deployed to the border. NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu added later that NATO is concerned that Russia might send troops into eastern Ukraine under the “pretext” of a humanitarian or peacekeeping mission.
Earlier this week NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said there was a “high probability” the humanitarian aid Russia dispatched to the crisis-plagued Ukrainian eastern regions might be a pretext for a military incursion into Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry has dismissed the allegations, calling them absurd.
At the same time, there are numerous reports of Ukrainian servicemen flowing into Russia. Earlier this month, 438 Ukrainian personnel, some employees of Ukraine’s State Border Service, requested refugee status in Russia.
The Russian-Ukrainian border has also been subjected to Ukrainian artillery shelling in the nearly four-month-long standoff between Ukraine’s national troops and eastern independence supporters. In total, one person has been killed and several others injured on Russian territory as a result of Ukrainian shelling since the military operation began.