Ukraine cites 15,000 Russian troops and rebels amid Putin's 'take Kiev' remark

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Ukrainian loyalist fighters from the Azov Battalion stand guard on a hill on the outskirts of Mariupol on Aug. 30, 2014. Ukrainian loyalist fighters from the Azov Battalion stand guard on a hill on the outskirts of Mariupol on Aug. 30, 2014.

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Russia stepped up its criticism of the U.S. over Ukraine as President Barack Obama heads to eastern Europe to reassure NATO members of their security.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Ukraine’s allies are stoking the five-month conflict and should back peace talks, even as President Vladimir Putin sought to calm concern over remarks his army could “take Kiev” in a matter of weeks. Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Geletey said defenses must be strengthened in the face of a “full-scale invasion” by Russia.
“Unfortunately, the rise of the ‘party of war’ in Ukraine is being actively encouraged by Washington and some European capitals and more and more frequently from NATO headquarters in Brussels,” Lavrov told reporters today in Moscow.
Ukraine, the U.S. and Europe accuse Russia of dispatching soldiers and backing militias to open a new front in a conflict the United Nations estimates has cost at least 2,600 lives. Russia, which is facing further sanctions as early as this week over the unrest, has repeatedly denied involvement. Obama will visit Tallinn, Estonia, on his way to this week’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in the U.K.
Ruble falls
The ruble headed for its longest losing streak in almost a month and bonds declined as the European Union weighed tougher sanctions over the conflict with Ukraine.
The currency fell 0.3 percent, depreciating for the sixth day versus the dollar to 37.4300 at 5:32 p.m. in Moscow. The yield on 10-year local-currency bonds rose two basis points to 9.85 percent, the highest since Aug. 8. The Micex Index rose 0.5 percent to 1,399.73, after dropping as much as 0.4 percent earlier.
Putin is in the process of a three-step dismantling of Ukraine, Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, chief economic adviser to Prime Minister Donald Tusk, said today in a television interview.
Bielecki said the first step was the annexation of Crimea in March followed by Russian military action in eastern Ukraine and the third step may be “carving out a land corridor to Crimea” through southeast Ukraine.
Fighting in eastern Ukraine has more than doubled number of internally displaced people in the country to 260,000 yesterday from 117,000 in the first week of August, the United Nations agency for refugees said in a website statement.
New threats
Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said any move by Ukraine to join NATO would upset peace talks that are due to continue Sept. 5 in Minsk, Belarus. He was responding to comments by Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk last week that lawmakers should vote on abandoning the nation’s non-aligned status to join NATO.
Russia will revise its military doctrine to counter new threats, the state-run RIA Novosti news service reported today, citing Security Council Deputy Secretary Mikhail Popov.

A target depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin at a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, on Aug. 31, 2014.
Obama is scheduled to meet the leaders of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, three former Soviet republics that are now part of the military alliance. He’ll then head on to Cardiff, Wales, where NATO is gathering amid the Ukrainian conflict and an escalating threat from Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria.
In Brussels, the European Commission pledged to propose a second round of economic penalties within the week to punish Russia over Ukraine. The bloc stayed united on previous measures against Russia and “will do so again with a new wave of sanctions,” EU President Herman Van Rompuy said today.
‘Strongest’ response
Italy’s Foreign Minister, Federica Mogherini, who’s taking over as the EU’s foreign-policy chief in December, said the 28-member bloc must apply pressure to find a political solution.
“We need to respond in the strongest possible way,” she told reporters in Brussels.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday that Europeans won’t accept Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine.
“Being able to change borders in Europe without consequences, and attacking other countries with troops, is in my view a far greater danger than having to accept certain disadvantages for the economy,” Merkel said in Berlin.

Ukrainian military hardware outside Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, on Aug. 27, 2014.
Regular Russian troops are replacing insurgent forces, with about 1,600 soldiers advancing into the region, according to the government in Kiev. Russian troops and rebels number 10,000 to 15,000, military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told TV channel ICTV. Government troops killed 50 rebels in past 24 hours, while 15 servicemen died, according to Lysenko.
Kremlin foreign-policy aide Yuri Ushakov said Russia hadn’t sent troops to Ukraine and sought to calm nerves over comments attributed to Putin in a report yesterday in La Repubblica. Putin told European Commission President Jose Barroso that: “If I want, I could take Kiev in two weeks,” according to the Italian newspaper, which didn’t identify a source for the information.
The remarks were taken out of context, Ushakov told reporters today in Moscow, saying that the disclosure of details from the conversation is undiplomatic and “unworthy of a serious political player.”

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