Ukraine: Ukrainian army warns against Russia exercises and separatists surround the country

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KYIV: Ukraine’s military warned on Friday that Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country were conducting military exercises, completing a near encirclement of Ukraine by hostile forces. The drills tested the force’s readiness for live-fire operations, practicing “driving artillery, tanks and armored vehicles” in field exercises, according to the Ukrainian statement. The statement said some units of the force were placed on their highest alert level and senior Russian military officers were observing the activity. The warning was the latest evidence of Kiev shifting towards more alarming comments. This follows weeks of efforts to minimize the threat of an invasion. Ukraine started its own military drills this week to coincide with joint Russian and Belarusian drills in northern Ukraine, Belarus.
To the south, the Russian Navy announced on Thursday the closure of large swaths of the Black Sea and the Sea of ​​Azov for live-fire exercises by its fleet which will effectively block Ukrainian ports. The naval exercises were to begin on Sunday and last six days. Russia has massed armored vehicles and troops near its borders in northeast Ukraine and to the south on the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014. To the east, the army of separatists backed by Russia in two enclaves in eastern Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, was placed on partial alert and ordered to conduct field exercises, Ukraine’s military intelligence agency said.
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