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MOSCOW, April 28. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu flatly denied “unfounded assertions” about the presence of Russian sabotage and reconnaissance groups in Ukraine where they are allegedly destabilising the situation in south-eastern regions of the country.
In a telephone conversation on Monday, April 28, Shoigu and his U.S. counterpart Chuck Hagel “had a frank one-hour conversation and exchanged concerns about tensions in Ukraine”, the Defence Ministry press service said.
At the same time, Shoigu said that under the pretext of “fighting terrorism” the Kiev regime had amassed about 80 tanks, over 130 armoured personnel carriers and fighting vehicles, at least 60 artillery systems and mortars in the South-East of Ukraine. Combat aircraft and helicopters are engaged on a regular basis. The overall number of Ukrainian troops has reached 15,000 personnel, and “all this against the peaceful population of their own country”, the minister said.
“The possibility of forceful actions against peaceful people caused Russia to start large-scale manoeuvres on the national territory in regions bordering on Ukraine. This decision was made public,” he said. “However as soon as the Ukrainian authorities announced that they had no intention to use regular military units against unarmed people, the Russian units were ordered back to their bases.”
Shoigu said the increase in the activity of the U.S. and NATO armed forces in Eastern Europe near the Russian border was unprecedented and stressed that “these actions have been accompanied by provocative statements by the NATO Secretary-General on the need to ‘deter’ Russia,” the ministry said.
“The Russian Defence Minister also drew the attention of his American colleague to the anti-Russian hysteria unleashed lately in the Western press, which does not help to calm down passions,” the press centre said.
Hagel said these steps had been undertaken by Washington and Brussels in response to the situation in Ukraine but they were not provocative or expansionist and aimed to demonstrate the bloc unity and increased defence capabilities of the allies.
Shoigu reaffirmed his readiness to maintain contact with all sides concerned in order to de-escalate tensions in and around Ukraine.
He also “called for constructive dialogue and search for compromises on the basis of the Geneva accord of April 17”.
The minister also commented on the incidents in which two Russian Su-24 planes flew over the American destroyer Donald Cook in Black Sea on April 12 and a Russian Su-27 jet fighter escorted an American RC-135 plane over the Sea of Okhotsk on April 22.
Shoigu suggested instructing the chiefs of the Russian and American General Staff to discuss possible additional measures to avoid misinterpretation of each other’s actions in the future.
The minister and the secretary agreed to maintain “close contact”.