Ukrainian military conducts drills with US missiles near breakaway region

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Ukrainian army servicemen roll out Javelin anti-tank missiles during a military parade marking Ukraine’s Independence Day in Kiev, Ukraine on August 24, 2018. REUTERS / Gleb Garanich

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KYIV, December 22 (Reuters) – Ukrainian military forces have conducted combat drills with American-made Javelin anti-tank missiles in an area of ​​conflict with separatists in eastern Ukraine as tensions escalate with Russia, Ukrainian TV channel Dom said on Wednesday.

Ukraine, which is seeking to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), has received a series of consignments of US ammunition and Javelin missiles since 2018, drawing criticism from Moscow.

Kiev accuses Moscow of having assembled tens of thousands of soldiers for a possible offensive, raising fears that a latent conflict in the eastern Donbass region in Ukraine could degenerate into open war between neighbors.

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Russia denies planning any attack but accuses Ukraine and the United States of destabilizing behavior and has called for security guarantees against NATO’s eastward expansion.

Russia has organized its own military exercises nearby, the Interfax news agency reported on Wednesday. SU-30 fighter jets and SU-24 bombers from the Black Sea Fleet carried out aerial refueling exercises over Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula which Russia annexed to Ukraine in 2014.

“The flights were carried out in the skies over Crimea,” Interfax said, citing the Russian Black Sea fleet. About 20 pilots performed complex flight tasks, he said, which included aerial refueling at altitudes ranging from 2,000 to 6,000 meters at speeds of around 600 km / h.

Senior Ukrainian security official Oleksiy Danilov said Wednesday 122,000 Russian troops were 200 km (124 miles) from the border with Ukraine.

Danilov told Reuters last week that Russia would need at least 500,000 to 600,000 troops at the border “in order to keep the situation under control in the event of an offensive.” Read more

He also said that Russia could increase the number of its troops very quickly and at any time, but would need more than 24 hours to bring enough troops to the border to stage an invasion.

Ukraine is at the center of consultations between Western allies and Russia, which has been invited to open negotiations in the so-called Norman format, which would bring together representatives from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine .

Dialogue with Moscow is necessary, whether in the Norman format or through talks in the Russia-NATO Council, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Wednesday.

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Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; additional reporting by Alexander Marrow in Moscow; edited by Barbara Lewis and Grant McCool

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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