The Kremlin says it will not comment on media reports that say Russia has been moving heavy military equipment toward its border with North Korea amid tension between Pyongyang and the United States.
President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on April 21 that troop movements inside Russia are "not a public matter."
Local media in the Russian Far East have reported that residents have witnessed large military convoys traveling by train and road toward the short border with North Korea since last weekend.
A video posted on local news site DVHab.ru showed a train carrying heavy military equipment, including Tor surface-to-air missile systems, traveling through the city of Khabarovsk -- purportedly moving south toward Vladivostok, which is 160 kilometers from the border.
"This is the third train of equipment we’ve seen since this morning," a man can be heard saying in Russian.
Vostok Media said local residents have seen armored personnel carriers, helicopters, and other equipment traveling south on the Khabarovsk-Vladivostok highway. A Russian military spokesman was quoted as saying it was part of "routine" military exercises.
Tensions over North Korea have risen sharply following two nuclear weapons tests by Pyonygang in 2016 and a series of ballistic-missile tests.
On April 19, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence vowed an "overwhelming and effective" U.S. response to any attack.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on April 21 that provocative statements by North Korea have often proven to be hollow, suggesting they cannot be trusted to reflect actual plans.
"As far as North Korea's latest words [are concerned], I think we've all come to hear their words repeatedly. Their word has not proven honest," Mattis told a news conference in Tel Aviv.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council on April 20 strongly condemned North Korea's latest missile test and threatened to impose new sanctions against Pyongyang for its "highly destabilizing behavior."
The council demanded in a unanimous statement that North Korea "conduct no further nuclear tests," adding that Pyongyang's "illegal missile activities" were "greatly increasing tension in the region and beyond."
The council threatened to "take further significant measures including sanctions" to tackle the issue of North Korea's missile launches.
While previous statements have warned of further measures, the agreed text made specific mention of sanctions, signaling a tougher stance from the council.
"If we have to start looking at sanctions or other actions, we will," U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters.
The U.S.-drafted statement was agreed upon after Russia insisted that language stressing the need to achieve a peaceful solution "through dialogue" was included in the final text.
Moscow had blocked an earlier version of the statement -- which comes after North Korea carried out a failed missile test on April 16 -- although China, Pyongyang's only major ally, had expressed its support for it.
With reporting by The Telegraph, AFP, Vostok Media, RIA Novosti, Reuters, and DVHab.ru