Russia: Military exercises are over

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Associated Press

Posted on August 8, 2014 at 9:00 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 8 at 11:31 PM

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's Defense Ministry says it has wrapped up military exercises in southern Russia that the United States had said were a provocative action.

The exercises involving fighter jets and bombers were held this week in a region about 600 miles from the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. That's the main stronghold of pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine. Government troops have been closing in on the stronghold as part of the effort to recapture areas that fell into rebel hands.

As the Kremlin tries to rebut Western claims that it is calling the shots among the rebels in Ukraine, a Ukrainian has replaced a Russian at the helm of the insurgency. And he's declaring that he wants "only moral support" from Moscow.

In recent weeks, several other rebel leaders with links to Russia have quietly left the region.

But in a sign that fighting may escalate further, the new leader of the insurgency is boasting of hundreds of new recruits. And he says a lot of rocket launchers and tanks have been seized from a Ukrainian unit.

Ukraine and the West have accused Moscow of beefing up its military on the border, dispatching what NATO estimates are 20,000 troops to the border of Ukraine. The deployment has fueled fears of a Russian invasion under the guise of restoring stability to eastern Ukraine.

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APPHOTO XSG104: Local resident Marina Barsuk speaks out of broken window of her flat after shelling in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014. At least three civilians have been killed and another 10 wounded in overnight shelling of the main rebel stronghold in eastern Ukraine besieged by government forces, officials said. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) (8 Aug 2014)

<<APPHOTO XSG104 (08/08/14)££

APPHOTO XSG103: Local residents display fragments of a shell in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014. At least three civilians have been killed and another 10 wounded in overnight shelling of the main rebel stronghold in eastern Ukraine besieged by government forces, officials said. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) (8 Aug 2014)

<<APPHOTO XSG103 (08/08/14)££

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