NATO's Secretary General and other leaders have met in Brussels to discuss Russia's military build-up near Ukraine.
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MICHELLE CLIFFORD: Ukraine showing its own military force and posting video of rehearsals to repel tank and troop attacks near the border with Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. The footage intended to instill confidence at home and to send a message to Moscow as thousands of Russian troops massed on Ukraine's eastern frontier.
The drills came a day after US President Joe Biden phoned his Russian counterpart to warn him against the military buildup, a message reiterated when the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, visited NATO in Brussels.
ANTONY BLINKEN: We also spent some time today talking about the deep concern that allies share about Russia and its actions on the borders of Ukraine. And what was striking to me was, in the North Atlantic Council meeting, listening to every single ally, all 30 of us, express-- express those concerns and a determination to see Russia take steps to de-escalate the tensions that it is creating.
MICHELLE CLIFFORD: Fighting has increased in recent weeks in Eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled Russian-backed separatists in a seven-year conflict. NATO says the number of Russian troops close to the border is now the highest since 2014, the Ukrainian ambassador to London telling Sky News it may not be possible to avoid a wider conflict.
VADYM PRYSTAIKO: I hope that we, by joint efforts, will be able to avert this. But you never know. Many people tried already to look into soul or eyes of President Putin for quite a while. And so many people do not understand. We all know where we've been with them for ages. They're our closest neighbors and brothers-- at least former brothers and sisters. And even us, we don't know how far he's eager to go.
MICHELLE CLIFFORD: Two US warships are now on their way to the Black Sea, evoking a sharp rebuke from Russia, warning the US to stay away for its own good and insisting the military buildup is part of a legitimate military exercise. But Ukraine's defense minister raised the rhetoric further, accusing Russia of preparing to potentially store nuclear weapons in Crimea. In an attempt to calm tensions, President Biden has suggested he meet Vladimir Putin in a third country to talk. Russia responded by saying any meeting will depend on how the US behaves. Michelle Clifford, Sky News, Brussels.