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Russia’s Putin says West ‘escalating’ Ukraine conflict with Black Sea exercises

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said the West is “escalating” the Ukraine conflict by holding drills in the Black Sea and flying bombers near Russia’s borders, as the US accuses Moscow of a troop build-up near Ukraine.

“(Our) Western partners are escalating the situation by supplying Kiev with lethal modern weapons and conducting provocative military maneuvers in the Black Sea,” Putin said in a speech to the foreign ministry in which he claimed Western bombers are flying “20 km from our border.”

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On Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the Russian troop buildup near the border with eastern Ukraine has the Pentagon’s attention and that the Russians should be “more transparent about what they’re up to.”

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