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US military raises threat level for Ukraine as Russia builds up forces: report

02.04.2021 14:30
The US military's European Command has raised its threat level over worries that Russia is building up forces around eastern Ukraine, an American military newspaper has reported.
Pro-Russian militants from the self-proclaimed Donetsk Peoples Republic attend a tactical exercise not far from the separatist-held city of Donetsk in Ukraines eastern Donbas region.
Pro-Russian militants from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic attend a tactical exercise not far from the separatist-held city of Donetsk in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.Photo: EPA/DAVE MUSTAINE

The Stars and Stripes newspaper cited the Pentagon as saying that tensions have escalated in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region in recent weeks.

“We’re discussing our concerns about this increase in tensions and cease-fire violations and regional tensions with NATO allies,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday, amid fears within Ukraine of a looming Russian offensive, according to Stars and Stripes.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Gen. Tod Wolters, head of the US military's European Command (EUCOM), in the past week raised EUCOM's watch level for Ukraine from "possible crisis" to "potential imminent crisis," signalling the highest level of alert.

EUCOM declined to comment on the threat level change, but said it was monitoring events in Ukraine carefully, the stripes.com website reported.

The Pentagon's Kirby was cited as saying that changes in so-called WATCHCON levels reflected a “combatant commander’s concern about a potential threat and the ability to provide future warnings.”

Kirby blamed Moscow for recent violations of a July 2020 cease-fire deal in Ukraine that resulted in the deaths of four Ukrainian soldiers last week, according to Stars and Stripes.

Since Moscow’s 2014 military intervention in Ukraine, there have been steady clashes between Russian-backed separatists in the country’s east and government forces, the American newspaper reported.

It said scores of videos shared on social media in recent weeks have shown Russian convoys of tanks and other combat vehicles apparently heading toward Ukraine.

Russia also has stepped up maneuvers beyond Ukraine in recent days, according to the stripes.com website.

US broadcaster CNN cited a NATO official as saying that the alliance scrambled fighter jets 10 times on Monday to track and intercept an unusually "rare peak" of Russian bombers and fighters flying over the North Sea, Black Sea and Baltic Sea.

(gs/pk)

Source: defence24.plstripes.com