Vadim Ghirda, Associated Press
KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine accused Russia on Wednesday of conducting a large military buildup near the countries' border that raises the threat of an invasion, but Moscow denied that.
Andriy Parubiy, secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, told reporters in Kiev that Russia has deployed more than 80,000 troops, up to 270 tanks and 140 combat planes close to the border, creating the "threat of a full-scale invasion from various directions."
Parubiy said Russian troops are based in the immediate vicinity of the Ukrainian border, some of them as close as a two- or three-hour drive from Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.
In Moscow, Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov denied a military buildup on the nearly 2,000-kilometer (1,250-mile) border.
He also said Moscow has accepted a request that Ukraine made Tuesday to conduct a surveillance flight over Russian territory.
Antonov said that while Russia was not obliged to allow such a flight, it decided to issue permission for one so that Ukraine can see for itself that "Russian armed forces aren't conducting any military activities near the border of Ukraine that could threaten its security."
Russian forces have secured control over Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, and Russia's parliament has given President Vladimir Putin permission to use the military to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine.
Crimea plans to hold a referendum on Sunday that will ask residents if they want the territory to become part of Russia. Ukraine's government and Western nations have denounced the referendum as illegitimate and warned Russia against trying to annex Crimea.
Parubiy said Russia could try to seize government buildings in eastern regions of Ukraine and demand a referendum there. He said such plans have been thwarted, thanks to efforts of Ukrainian law enforcement agencies.
Parubiy added that Ukrainian authorities have denied 3,700 Russian citizens permission to enter Ukraine because they were suspected of being involved in extremism and sabotage.
Crimea, where Russia maintains its Black Sea Fleet base, became the epicenter of tensions in Ukraine after President Viktor Yanukovych fled last month following months of protests.
Parubiy said 399 people already have registered as refugees from Crimea.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington on Wednesday. Yatsenyuk has asked the West to defend Ukraine against Russia, calling it a country that is "armed to the teeth and that has nuclear weapons."
NATO on Wednesday deployed two surveillance aircraft to monitor Ukraine's air space and Black Sea ship movements as Russia consolidated its military buildup in Crimea.
NATO headquarters spokesman Lt. Col. Jay Janzen said one Boeing E-3 Sentry aircraft based in England would observe Russian air and sea movements from Polish air space, while the other based in Germany would fly over Romania. Both Poland and Romania are NATO members and border Ukraine, and Romania's Black Sea coast is only about 220 kilometers (140 miles) from the Crimean Peninsula.
Also on Wednesday, a Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren, said the U.S. is sending 12 F-16 fighter jets to Poland to augment the air force detachment there. He said there is no scheduled departure date for the fighter jets and they will be there "until further notice."
Last week, the Pentagon sent six F-15 fighter jets to Lithuania to bolster air patrols over the Baltics, adding to the four such planes that previously had been there for the mission.
- Photos: Celebrating 25 years of spectacular...
- Yellowstone supervolcano is super big, new U....
- Former Romney finance chairman courting a...
- Number of LDS converts, missionaries...
- Native American actors walk off set of Adam...
- What could McDonald's do to fix its business?
- 23 of the best Shakespearean insults to...
- Jaws meets kangaroo? Rare, cute pocket shark...
- Same-sex marriage opponents urge... 36
- House Benghazi panel calls Clinton to... 28
- Gay marriage a difficult issue for GOP... 26
- Obama sounds alarm on climate damage in... 24
- Yellowstone supervolcano is super big,... 24
- American, Italian hostages killed in US... 20
- Longtime Marco Rubio-Jeb Bush alliance... 13
- Hatch, Lee split on new attorney general 12