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Russian troops now number 90,000 near Ukraine border after exercises, Kiev says

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Russia has left military units near the Ukrainian border after exercises, with the number of Russian troops in the area now totaling 90,000, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said.

Russian armed forces recently held a series of large-scale drills, including with airborne troops, the ministry said late on Tuesday.

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After the training, units of the 41st Army stayed behind, about 260 km (160 miles) from the Ukrainian border, it said.

“It should be noted that the Russian Federation periodically resorted to the practice of transferring and accumulating military units in order to maintain tensions in the region and political pressure on neighboring states,” the ministry said.

This spring, Moscow alarmed Kiev and Western capitals by building up more than 100,000 of troops along the border with Ukraine, though it later ordered them back to base.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry on Monday denied a media report that Russia was building up troops at the border, saying it had not observed an increase in forces or weaponry.

The Politico news outlet said commercial satellite photos taken on Monday confirmed recent reports that Russia was once again massing troops and military equipment on the border with Ukraine.

Satellite pictures supplied by US space company Maxar Technologies showed around 1,000 military vehicles near the Russian town of Yelnya, about 250 km north of the Ukrainian border.

“Based on a review of recent satellite images, the equipment (which includes tanks, armored personnel carriers, self-propelled artillery and associated support equipment) likely began arriving in the area in late September,” Maxar said in a e-mailed comment.

The Kremlin rejected that report and on Wednesday said that Russia maintains a military presence on its own territory where it considers it necessary.

Relations between Kiev and Moscow have plummeted since 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and a war broke out between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, which Kiev says has killed 14,000 people.

Read more: Pentagon watches possible Russian troop buildup near Ukraine