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Ukraine denies Russian military buildup on border

Telegram från AFP / Omni
2 November 2021, 09.43

Ukraine has denied reports of a Russian military build-up near its eastern border that raised fears of a new escalation in fighting with pro-Moscow separatists.

Videos posted on social media in recent days showed Russian military trains and truck convoys moving tanks and missiles in the country's southwest near the Ukrainian border.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday that Washington was monitoring the situation and The Washington Post quoted US officials saying they were concerned.

But Ukraine's defence ministry said in a statement late Monday that "no additional deployment" of Russian forces had been observed near the border.

The ministry said the published videos could be an "element of special informational and psychological actions" and showed a planned movement of troops after a Russian military exercise.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday also dismissed the reports of a potential build-up, saying there was no need to "waste time" on "low-quality" claims.

"The movement of our military equipment and army units... is exclusively our business," he told reporters. "Russia has never threatened anyone."

The Ukrainian army is locked in a simmering conflict with pro-Russian separatists that erupted after Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014.

After an uptick in violence at the beginning of this year, Russia in March amassed around 100,000 troops on Ukraine's borders, sparking fears of a major escalation in the conflict.

Under pressure from Kiev's Western allies, Moscow later announced a pullback, but both Ukraine and the United States said at the time the withdrawal was limited.

Ukraine's military said Tuesday that one of its soldiers had been killed in an attack by the separatists.

The conflict, which has claimed more than 13,000 lives, has seen at least 59 Ukrainian soldiers killed since the start of the year, compared with 50 in all of 2020.

The separatists say some 40 of their fighters have died.

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of sending troops and arms across the border to support the separatists, claims denied by Moscow.