Ukraine received two refitted former US Coast Guard vessels meant to reinforce the country’s navy Tuesday as Russia masses thousands of troops and military equipment on the border between the two countries.
The Ukrainian navy announced that the boats had arrived at the Black Sea port of Odessa.
“We appreciate the contribution of the United States to deter the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine,” said naval commander Oleksiy Neyizhpapa.
The vessels are part of more than $2.5 billion in military assistance Ukraine has received from the US since 2014, when Russia illegally annexed the province of Crimea, setting off a war that has claimed more than 14,000 lives.
Meanwhile, Russian forces near eastern Ukraine have stepped up their combat readiness and have been carrying out large-scale exercises, Ukraine’s defense ministry said Tuesday.
Ukraine, the US and NATO say the buildup of troops indicates that Russia is preparing for a military invasion, claims that the Kremlin has denied as misinformation.
But Ukraine’s defense ministry said Russia is “increasing the combat readiness of the Russian occupation forces in the temporarily occupied territory in Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” referring to the war-torn Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.
US officials told Reuters that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions are unclear, with none of the Americans saying they anticipate an imminent attack.
The State Department said Monday it is “concerned” by Russian troop movements in the region.
”We’re concerned knowing that, of course, we can’t speak to the intentions of the Russian Federation, but we are concerned because we are familiar with the playbook that Moscow has used in the past,” spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
“And if you look back, as the Secretary [Antony Blinken] has said, to 2014, you saw Moscow amass forces on the border and then claim a pretextual provocation that caused them to go into Crimea and to eastern Ukraine,” Price added.
The spokesman reiterated the administration’s support for Ukraine but declined to elaborate on how the US would respond in the event of an invasion.
“What we don’t want to do at this point is to telegraph our playbook,” Price said. “What we have said is that any escalatory or aggressive actions on the part of Moscow would be of great concern to the United States, to our European partners as well.”
With Post wires