Russia denies weighing Ukraine attack, accuses U.S. of aggressive Black Sea moves, EU expresses concern

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MOSCOW, Nov 12 (Reuters) – Russia on Friday dismissed as inflammatory a media report suggesting Moscow might be weighing an attack on Ukraine and accused the United States of making a series of aggressive moves in the Black Sea.

Washington has raised concerns about a potential Russian attack on Ukraine with its European Union allies, the Bloomberg news agency reported a day earlier.

The report cited potentially suspicious troop movements inside Russia as being one of the reasons for U.S. concern.

The Kremlin said it was up to Moscow alone where it deployed its own forces within its own borders.

“Such headlines do nothing more than pointlessly and groundlessly fuel tensions. Russia does not pose a threat to anyone,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

Washington has publicly said it is concerned by “unusual Russian military activity” near Russia’s border with Ukraine. Peskov said such concerns were wide of the mark.

“We have repeatedly said that the movement of our armed forces on our territory should not be a cause for concern,” Peskov said.

Regional tensions have mounted this week as the European Union accused close Russian ally Belarus of encouraging thousands fleeing war-torn parts of the world to try to cross its borders. Brussels has threatened to impose sanctions.

Russian and Belarusian paratroopers held joint drills on Friday in western Belarus near its border with Poland, the countries’ defence ministries said.

Russia’s Ministry of Defence said it had detected six flights by NATO spy planes in airspace over the Black Sea, part of what it described as intensifying air reconnaissance by Western military aircraft.

The Russian military also said it was tracking U.S. naval ships in the Black Sea and accused Washington of studying the region as a potential theatre of war.

“We regard the aggressive U.S. military activity in the Black Sea region as a threat to regional security and strategic stability,” the military said in a statement.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and says the waters around it belong to Moscow now despite most countries continuing to recognise the peninsula as Ukrainian.

Russian-backed separatists took control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region that same year and soldiers on both sides continue to be regularly killed in the conflict there.

The European Commission has received “rather worrying” information about the situation on Ukraine’s border, a spokesman for the EU executive said, responding to a report that Washington was worried Moscow would launch an attack on Ukraine.

“We continue to watch and we continue to monitor the situation, and the information we gathered so far is rather worrying,” a Commission spokesman told a news briefing on Friday.

A report by Bloomberg cited potentially suspicious troop movements inside Russia as being one reason for U.S. concern. The Kremlin on Friday dismissed the report, saying Russia did not pose a threat to anyone.

Ukraine’s Western allies have stepped up diplomatic efforts to warn Russia against launching a military escalation against Ukraine, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told a briefing on Friday.

“This is a political track in which certain positions are communicated with Russia and the consequences for Russia are discussed if it resorts to a new wave of aggression against our state,” Kuleba said.

The Kremlin earlier dismissed a media report which suggested the United States was worried that Moscow would launch an attack on Ukraine, saying Russia did not pose a threat to anyone. 

Photo – Police officers wearing protective masks walk on the Red Square in front of the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. EPA-EFE/YURI KOCHETKOV

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