Russia to deploy 12 military units in country's west in response to NATO expansion
Defense Minister Shoygu says NATO's growing military activities create threats for Russia
The Russian defense minister said on Friday that 12 military units will be formed and deployed by the end of the year in the west of the country in response to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, which is subject to approval.
Addressing a security meeting in Moscow, Sergey Shoygu called the step "a measure of adequate counteraction" in response to "growing military threats" near Russia's borders.
"Our closest neighbors, Finland and Sweden, have applied to join NATO. Thus, tensions continue to increase in ... Western Military District. We are taking measures of adequate counteraction. By the end of the year, 12 military units and subunits will be formed ... ," he said.
About other threats to Russia's western borders, Shoygu cited the growing number of flights of the US strategic bomber aviation in Europe, which he said have increased 15-fold over the last eight years, from 3 to 45 per year, as well as more frequent visits of American ships with guided missile weapons to the Baltic Sea.
"At the same time, the United States and NATO are increasing the scale of operational and combat training at our borders. Currently, a series of exercises, [such as] Defender of Europe, are being held with the participation of up to 40,000 servicemen from 30 countries of the bloc.
"The main feature of the maneuvers is the transfer of a full-fledged division from the US to the European continent, as well as the deployment of a group of troops in three strategic directions – the Arctic, Western and Southwestern," he said.
On the war in Ukraine, Shoygu said "the liberation of the Luhansk People's Republic" is close, the Russian army, jointly with the military forces of the self-proclaimed republics, "expands control over the territory of the Donetsk People's Republic."
According to him, all civilians were evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in the city of Mariupol, and the number of surrendered Ukrainian military personnel, who had previously taken refuge at the plant, increased to 1,908.
Moscow calls its actions a “special military operation” to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine. For Western countries, however, it is a war of aggression and they have imposed severe sanctions in response.
The move came after President Vladimir Putin officially recognized Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples Republics in Donbas region as independent states.