Russia spy agency dismisses claims of Ukraine invasion plan
Western countries have this month raised alarm over reported Russian military activity near Ukraine, with the US saying it has “real concerns” over what it called “unusual activity”.
“The Americans are painting a frightening picture of hordes of Russian tanks that will start to crush Ukrainian cities, saying they have some ‘reliable information’ of such Russian intentions,” the SVR said in a rare statement to Russian news agencies.
It said the US is sending its allies “absolutely false information on the concentration of forces on the territory of our country for the military invasion of Ukraine”.
The SVR said “US bureaucrats are scaring the global community”.
The Kremlin earlier Monday said the West is leading an “information campaign” on the issue with the aim of “escalating tensions”.
“Any movement of Russian troops inside our territory does not pose a threat to anyone and should not cause concern to anyone,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
He previously dismissed the Western claims as “hysteria”.
– ‘Surge in disinformation’ –
In a phone call with Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine was escalating the situation in its separatist east.
According to a Kremlin transcript, Putin discussed “provocative steps by the Ukrainian side to deliberately aggravate the situation in (separatist) Donbas, including with the use of weapons prohibited” by peace talks.
The Russian leader has criticised Ukraine for using a Turkish-made drone against pro-Moscow rebels.
He has also been voicing concern about US naval exercises in the Black Sea.
Last week, he said the West was “escalating” the conflict by holding drills in the Black Sea and said the US flew bombers near Russia’s borders.
In its statement, the SVR also said it had information on “creeping advances” by the Ukrainian armed forces, as well as Ukraine organising a “concentration of forces” in areas bordering Russia and Belarus.
Kiev has said it would deploy thousands of border guards and security personnel to its frontier with Belarus because of a migrant crisis that has seen tensions soar between the EU and Minsk.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter that Russian accusations of Kiev “plotting a military attack” in its separatist east are “false”.
He also warned of a “surge in Russian disinformation.”
Kuleba said Ukraine is “working hard to revive” peace talks with France and Germany as mediators and called on Moscow to “engage constructively in these peace efforts instead of undermining them”.
Last week France and Germany accused Moscow of breaking diplomatic rules by publishing confidential correspondence over the planning of peace talks.
Ukraine’s army has been locked in a simmering conflict with pro-Russian separatists in two breakaway regions bordering Russia since 2014, after Moscow annexed Crimea.
Kiev and its Western allies accuse Russia of sending troops and arms across the border to support the separatists — claims Moscow denies.