Russia orders new military exercises on Ukraine border

Russia on Thursday (24/04/2014) ordered new military exercises in Russian regions bordering Ukraine in response to Kiev's operation against militants in the east.

"We are compelled to react to such a situation," Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies at a meeting of the defence ministry.

"From today, military exercises have started in regions bordering Ukraine involving battalions of tactical forces of the southern and western military districts," he said.

He said that the exercises were a forced measure in response to fatalities during Ukraine's military operation against separatists who have occupied eastern cities close to the Russian border.

"The situation in Ukraine provokes serious concern. From April 22 the new Ukrainian leadership has begun the so-called active phase of an operation in the southeastern borders of Ukraine. There are already people killed," Shoigu said.

"A start has already been made in using weapons against peaceful citizens of their own country. If this war machine is not stopped today, then it will lead to a large number of dead and wounded."

Shoigu said Ukraine was deploying a large number of civilian volunteers and special forces close to the Russian border and that "the forces are clearly not equal".

Ukraine has sent over two army brigades, including a tank brigade, from western Ukraine and special forces from its security service and the interior ministry to the eastern cities of Donetsk and Lugansk, Shoigu listed.

"According to our information, the group of forces deployed (by Ukraine) counts more than 11,000 people, fully armed with machine guns. The operation is using around 160 tanks, more than 230 armed vehicles and armoured personnel carriers" as well as a "large amount of aviation," Shoigu said.

"Units of the National Guard and also battalions of extremists from the Right Sector are acting against peaceful civilians," he said, adding that more than 2,000 self-defence volunteers were deployed with around 100 machineguns, some raided from police stations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned earlier that the deployment of military forces in east Ukraine by the Kiev authorities was a crime against its own people that will "have consequences". - Sapa-AFP