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Russia on Wednesday promised a response if its interests come under attack in Ukraine. It also accused the United States and Ukraine of distorting an agreement last week to calm the crisis there.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in an interview with the government-controlled TV channel Russia Today, did not say what Russia considers its interests to be, nor did he specify the response.
“If our interests, our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians have been attacked directly … I do not see any other way but to respond in full accordance with international law,” he said.
The remarks raised concern about the estimated 40,000 troops that Russia has staged along its border with Ukraine.
Some of those troops conducted military exercises in southeastern Rostov, which borders Ukraine, a spokesman for Russia's southern military district said.
Reuters Television footage from the exercises showed columns of military vehicles, including jeeps, armored personnel carriers, mobile multiple rocket launchers, and mobile surface-to-air missile launchers, driving in formation at a military aerodrome.
The remarks and drills are the latest sign that the deal to cool tensions, reached after four-way talks last week in Geneva, would crumble.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that it believed the United States was serious about peace, but it said “the facts speak the opposite.”
The agreement called for all sides to stop fighting. It called for pro-Russian militants to lay down their arms and get out of Ukrainian government buildings that they have occupied. In exchange, Ukraine offered amnesty for most of the militants and protections for ethnic Russians who live in Ukraine.
But the militants have said they are not bound to follow the agreement, and Ukraine on Tuesday announced an “anti-terror” campaign against the militants.
Also Tuesday, the United States said it was sending 600 troops to Poland and the three countries known as the Baltic states — Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — for infantry exercises.
“If there’s a message to Moscow, it is the same exact message that we take our obligations very, very seriously on the continent of Europe,” said Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.