OREANDA-NEWS. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has raised the combat readiness of the 40,000-strong rapid reaction group due to the build-up of the Russian contingent near the Ukrainian border, the newspaper Die Welt has said. The newspaper Die Welt quoted a high-ranking NATO diplomat as saying this.

According to the newspaper, the matter concerns the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), which is part of the rapid reaction force. It "must be ready for deployment" to a crisis region within five days, rather than seven as in the past.

The alliance has also put other units of the rapid reaction force on high alert, the newspaper said. According to the newspaper, the decision was taken last week by the North Atlantic Council, which includes all members of the alliance. The alliance is stepping up combat readiness, in particular to strengthen the defence of Romania, Poland and the Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, which are also NATO members, Welt reported.

"NATO allies have made it clear that Russia must ensure transparency, reduce escalation and tensions. Any further aggression would have costs and consequences. NATO's policy towards Russia remains consistent: defence and dialogue,"- a spokesman for the alliance told the newspaper, commenting on its information.

In early December, the German newspaper Bild quoted its sources as saying that Russia was considering two scenarios of "invasion" in Ukraine: a simultaneous attack from several fronts and an attack in several stages. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the article propaganda, which lacks common sense.

Previously, Bloomberg reported that the USA had shared with the EU fears that Moscow would decide to invade Ukraine. Russian presidential press secretary Dmitriy Peskov called the information "empty" and "unfounded escalation" and assured that Russia was not threatening anyone.