Oleg Burunov According to the Russian defence minister, the international situation is deteriorating, with tensions on Russia’s western and eastern borders on the rise. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigi has said private US military firms are planning provocations in Eastern Ukraine that will involve chemical components. “Tanks with unidentified chemical components have been delivered to the cities of Avdeevka and Krasny Liman to commit provocations”, Shoigu told a Russian Defence Ministry gathering on Tuesday. The minister pointed out that advisers from American private military companies (PMCs) have been dispatched to Ukraine’s Donbass setting up firing positions and defences, training Ukrainian special forces. “The presence of more than 120 employees of American PMCs was reliably estimated in the settlements of Avdeevka and Pryazovske in [eastern Ukraine’s] Donetsk Region. They are setting up firing positions in residential buildings and socially significant facilities, training Ukrainian special ops task forces and radical military groups for active hostilities”, Shoigu said. Separately, he pointed out that the US is ramping up its military presence near Russia’s borders, with about 8,000 American military personnel already deployed in Eastern Europe. He also said that NATO is practicing options for using coalition groups against Russia, referring to Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, who take part in the alliance’s military drills. “NATO pays special attention to the troop deployment to the eastern flank of the alliance, including from the continental part of the US. The drills include working out various options to use coalition groups against Russia that comprise non-NATO members”, Shoigu said. The Russian defence minister also said that “the US and NATO are purposefully increasing the scale and intensity of troop training activities near Russia”. “They increasingly involve strategic aviation, carrying out simulated launches of nuclear missiles on our facilities. The number of their flights near Russia’s borders has more than doubled”, Shoigu stressed.