Russia cannot 'tolerate' NATO's 'gradual invasion' of Ukraine, Putin spokesman says

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Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said on Sunday that Russia began its military buildup along the Ukrainian border because it could no longer "tolerate" NATO's eastward expansion and "gradual invasion" of Ukraine.

Appearing on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the stage for the current border crisis was set decades ago, in the '90s. Roughly 100,000 Russian soldiers have recently amassed near Ukraine, leading to concerns that Russia will invade its neighbor soon.

"When Germany was reunited and when the then-Soviet Union and the Soviet Union leader Mr. [Mikhail] Gorbachev said OK to that, there was a promise by American side," Peskov said on Sunday.

"Unfortunately, not fixed in a juridical, in a legally binding guaranteeing document, but it - there was a guarantee that NATO would never ... expand its military infrastructure or political infrastructure eastwards," he continued.

"Unfortunately, the opposite thing started to happen since then, and NATO's military infrastructure started to get closer and closer to the borders of the Russian Federation," he added, saying that recent actions by the U.S. military led Russia to feel that its national security was being "endangered."

Peskov, a career diplomat and longtime Putin spokesman, accused NATO of being a "weapon of confrontation" rather than a "dove of peace." Russia has demanded a guarantee that Ukraine not become part of NATO, which it says would be a severe threat to its security.

"At first, they were just words, but with the time being, we have seen the gradual invasion of NATO into Ukrainian territory, with its infrastructure, with its instructors, with supplies of defensive and offensive weapons, teaching Ukrainian military, and so on and so forth. And that brought us to the red line. That brought us to the situation when we - when we couldn't tolerate it anymore," said Peskov.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said last week that the threat of a Russian invasion was "high," and U.S. intelligence said Moscow was planning a false-flag operation as a pretext for launching an invasion into Kyiv.

Though he did not directly address that specific accusation, Peskov stated that there were no soldiers in the Donbas region of Ukraine, despite reports that Russian soldiers out of uniform have been seen there.

"I'm a spokesperson to Kremlin, and I officially can tell you that there are no Russian troops on Donbas and on Ukrainian soil," he said.

Zakaria asked Peskov if there was any room for a potential compromise in the unlikely event that Ukraine becomes a NATO member sometime soon.

"Well, there is also space for compromise. Excluding some principal concerns, and here we're talking about principal concerns. Russia has never had a deficit of political will for negotiations," said Peskov. "But in general, in principle, we can now say that we are staying on different tracks, on totally different tracks, and this is not good, and this is disturbing."