Russia denies deployment of air defense systems in eastern Ukraine

Russia's Defense Ministry on Thursday denied an allegation by the U.S. State Department on Wednesday that Russia is deploying air defense systems in eastern Ukraine and said that, on the contrary, there are American military instructors posted in that part of Ukraine training Ukrainian soldiers to fight in urban environments.

US training with Ukrainian national guardian. Source: US Mission to NATO 

Russia's Defense Ministry on Thursday denied an allegation by the U.S. State Department on Wednesday that Russia is deploying air defense systems in eastern Ukraine and said that, on the contrary, there are American military instructors posted in that part of Ukraine training Ukrainian soldiers to fight in urban environments.

"The allegation of the official spokesperson for the State Department, Marie Harf, that Russia has pulled 'the highest amount of Russian air defense equipment' to eastern Ukraine since August is astonishingly incompetent," ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov told Interfax-AVN.

On the other hand, "it is the teaching of combat skills in urban conditions to [Ukrainian] National Guard personnel by American officers that should give rise to public anxiety," Konashenkov said.

"This is happening not at the Yavoriv training range in the Lvov Region as Ukrainian television channels report, but directly in the combat zone, in the areas of Mariupol, Severodonetsk, Artemovsk and Volnovakha," he said.

"By the way, did the American instructors check whether the National Guards they're training included people with Nazi views and Nazi symbols on their bodies?" the general asked.

On Wednesday, Harf accused Russia of an air defense systems buildup in eastern Ukraine. "This is the highest amount of Russian air defense equipment in eastern Ukraine since August," she in a statement.

"We had expected that, with Ms. Jen Psaki's departure for a higher position, the State Department would, at last, forfeit its status of a Klondike of absurdities. Apparently, we were wrong," Konashenkov said.

"Even Kiev has repeatedly stressed in its public statements that it hasn't been using its air force in its punitive operations in southeastern Ukraine. Moreover, everyone knows there is practically no air force left in Ukraine. We won't be surprised if soon we are accused of deploying an attack force of aircraft carriers in Luhansk region or of an illegal visit of a Russian nuclear submarine into the First City Pond of Donetsk," the spokesman said.

But allegations like Harf's claim "are easy to explain," he said. "Ahead of the next NATO summit in Antalya in Turkey, which will be held on May 13-14, attempts have started to 'warm up' the public with Russophobe accusations, and, as we can see, such speakers don't take the trouble of citing at least some kinds of arguments," he said.

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