* NATO says Russia has big force at Ukraine’s border
* Deputy defence minister says Russia “has nothing to hide” (Adds quotes, background)
MOSCOW, March 23 (Reuters) - Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday that it was complying with international troop limits near its border with Ukraine, after NATO’s top military commander voiced concern over what he said was a large Russian force on Ukraine’s eastern border.
“The Russian Defence Ministry is in compliance with all international agreements limiting the number of troops in the border areas with Ukraine,” Russian Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.
NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, earlier on Sunday called the Russian force near its Ukrainian border “very, very sizeable and very, very ready”. He said he was worried it could pose a threat to Moldova’s mainly Russian-speaking separatist Transdniestria region.
As Russian forces consolidated control over Crimea two days after President Vladimir Putin signed laws completing Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula, some have voiced fears Putin may try to grab more territory in the east of the country.
Antonov said eight groups of international inspectors had conducted missions in Russia in the last month to check on Russian troop movements.
“We cooperated to our utmost with our partners, allowing them to inspect all sites in which they were interested. We have nothing to hide there,” Antonov was quoted by the state RIA and Itar-Tass news agencies as saying.
“The conclusion that our foreign partners made ... (was that) Russian armed forces are not undertaking any undeclared military activities that could cause a threat to the security of neighbouring states,” he said. (Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Rosalind Russell)