(Bloomberg) -- The European Union’s top diplomat said that Russia’s military presence on the border with Ukraine has grown to more than 100,000 personnel, the largest buildup on the frontier between the two countries in recent times, raising the possibility of further conflict.
“The military deployment of Russian troops with all kind of materials, deploying campaign hospitals and all kind of warfare, has been continuing,” Josep Borrell, high representative of the EU, told reporters following a virtual meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers on Monday. “When you deploy a lot of troops, a spark can jump here or there.”
Borrell declined to say where the bloc had obtained the figure, and a spokesman on Wednesday adjusted the number downward. Borrell added that the 27-member bloc wasn’t preparing fresh sanctions on Russia over the buildup of Russian troops and the declining health of opposition activist Alexey Navalny.
The lastest developments come as more countries line up to condemn the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin, with the Czech Republic blaming Moscow for a deadly explosion and expelling 18 embassy staffers. The EU’s foreign ministers had a one hour dialog with their Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, who has been trying to drum up more support for sanctions against Russia.
Last week, the U.S. ordered a raft of new punitive measures against Russia, including restrictions on buying new sovereign debt, in response to allegations that Moscow was behind a hack on SolarWinds Corp. and interfered with last year’s U.S. election. The Biden administration also warned Moscow of more consequences should Navalny die, with the dissident currently on a hunger strike.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration warned airlines to “exercise extreme caution” when flying over areas of Russia and Ukraine.
The warning, dated Saturday, said there are “potential safety-of-flight risks associated with escalating regional tensions between Russia and Ukraine, which could potentially result in no-notice cross-border skirmishes, increased military activities, and/or conflict.”
(EU spokesman restates the number of Russian troops in the first paragraph.)
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