MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Monday it was alarmed by a U.S.-backed push to supply Ukraine with sophisticated weapons, but said U.S. media outlets that have suggested Russia is poised to attack Ukraine are being used in a disinformation campaign.
The head of Ukraine’s military intelligence told the Military Times outlet this weekend that Russia had more than 92,000 troops massed around Ukraine’s borders and was preparing for an attack by the end of January or beginning of February.
Kyrylo Budanov said such an attack would probably involve air strikes, artillery and armoured attacks followed by airborne assaults in the east, amphibious assaults in Odessa and Mariupol, and a smaller incursion through Belarus.
Similar warnings, often sourced to unnamed people familiar with the matter, have appeared in some U.S. media and the United States, NATO and Ukraine have raised concerns about Russian troops movements near Ukraine in recent weeks.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the idea of a possible Russian attack and said that Moscow itself was being targeted in a disinformation campaign.
“This is whipping up tension and is another attempt to present Russia as the one threatening the process of settling the situation (in eastern Ukraine).” said Peskov.
“And of course we cannot rule out that this is cover for aggressive dreams that Kyiv may have. I mean aggressive dreams about a possible desire to solve the problem in the south-east by force.”
Ukraine’s ties with Russia collapsed in 2014 after Moscow backed separatists who seized a swath of eastern Ukraine, territory that Kyiv says it wants back. Russia also annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula that same year.
Peskov accused Ukraine of what he said were provocative actions.
“Kyiv is itself building up its forces, Kyiv is being helped to build up its forces, Kyiv is being supplied with a significant amount of weapons, including modern high-tech weapons,” Peskov told reporters.
“And we are observing this with great alarm, knowing the significant influence of extreme-minded politicians in Ukraine,” he said.
Ukraine says it is upgrading its combat capabilities to defend itself against new possible Russian aggression.
Moscow has long opposed the idea of Ukraine joining the NATO alliance and has recently voiced increasingly emphatic concerns over the Western military alliance’s expanding ties with Ukraine.
“Of course, the number of provocations is growing and growing significantly. What’s more these provocations are being carried out with weapons being supplied by NATO countries,” said Peskov.
(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Andrew Osborn)