Kremlin says probability of new conflict in east Ukraine still high


FILE PHOTO: A Ukrainian service member walks along fighting positions on the contact line with Russian-backed separatist rebels near the town of Avdiivka in Donetsk Region, Ukraine February 13, 2021. REUTERS/Oleksandr Klymenko/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin said on Thursday that the probability of a new conflict in eastern Ukraine remained high and that Moscow was concerned by "aggressive" rhetoric from Kyiv and an increase in what it called provocative actions.

The comments come amid Ukrainian and western concerns over a buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine. Moscow denies planning an invasion and accuses Ukraine of building up its own forces in the east of the country.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call that Moscow was worried about the possibility of a Ukrainian military move in eastern Ukraine, something that Kyiv has denied planning.

Peskov also said that Russia viewed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's pledge to return annexed Crimea as a direct threat.

"Such a formulation means that Kyiv may use any option, including force, to try and encroach on a Russian region," he said.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, drawing western condemnation and sanctions.

(Reporting by Darya Korsunskaya; writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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