Tension mounts as 10,000 Russian troops carry out drills near the Ukrainian border while Moscow is also accused of withholding gas supplies to Europe.
Poland accuses Moscow of having stopped its deliveries via the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline which carries Russian gas to Western Europe, accusing Gazprom of “manipulation”.
The pipeline was operating in reverse mode this week, delivering gas from Germany to Poland, according to public data, as gas prices in Europe rose.
President Vladimir Putin on Friday denied that the direction of the flow was a political decision and said Poland had “sidelined” Russia in the management of the pipeline.
“All accusations against Russia and Gazprom that we are not supplying enough gas to the European market are absolutely baseless, unacceptable and false,” Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said on Saturday evening, calling the accusations “ lies”.
Meanwhile, Western countries have accused Russia of gathering more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine ahead of a possible winter invasion.
The Defense Ministry said in a statement that exercises by the forces of the Southern Military District took place in many southern regions, including Rostov, Krasnodar and Crimea, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.
But the drills also took place further afield, including in Stavropol, Astrakhan, the North Caucasian republics and even Armenia, Russia’s ally in the Caucasus.
The Defense Ministry said troops were returning to their permanent bases and reserve units would be readied for the New Year holidays.
According to Kiev estimates, the number of Russian troops along Ukraine’s borders has risen from around 93,000 soldiers in October to 104,000 today.
Russia says it is free to move its forces around its territory as it sees fit and denies planning a full-scale attack.
Tensions reached a boiling point on Wednesday when President Vladimir Putin said Russia would take “appropriate retaliatory” military action in response to what he called the West’s “aggressive stance”.