Russian President Vladimir Putin said last Wednesday that Russia had pulled back its estimated force of 40,000 troops from the region. But the commercial satellite images, published on the U.S. Mission to NATO's Twitter account on Tuesday, showed troops and vehicles still at Belogrod and two sites in Rostov, near the Ukrainian border.
Colonel Martin Downie, spokesman for Allied Command Operations at NATO, said the images proved that Putin’s comments on troop withdrawal did not reflect realities on the ground.
"The reality is that Russia continues to have 40,000 high readiness troops massed on Ukraine's border and another 25,000 troops in Crimea. The units on the latest satellite pictures show mechanized infantry, armored vehicles and combat helicopters," he said in a statement reported by Reuters.
"These units are there to intimidate Ukraine's government and they could be used for an invasion of Ukraine, if ordered by Moscow. We will continue to keep a close eye on Russia's actions near our borders."
When NATO published similar satellite photographs in April showing a Russian military buildup near the Ukraine border, a Russian official disputed their authenticity, saying the images were from August last year. The allegation was denied by NATO officials, who said the photographs were recent.
-- Alexander Smith