U.S. concerned by Russia's escalations in eastern Ukraine

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WASHINGTON, April 1 (Xinhua) -- The United States is concerned by Russia's escalations in eastern Ukraine, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said on Thursday.

"We're absolutely concerned by recent escalations of Russian aggressive and provocative actions in eastern Ukraine, including violations of the July 2020 ceasefire that led to the deaths of four Ukrainian soldiers on March 26th and injuries to two others," Price told reporters during a press briefing.

He also noted Washington was aware of Ukrainian military reports concerning Russian troop movements on Ukraine's borders. "We are discussing our concerns about that increase in tensions and ceasefire violations and regional tensions with NATO allies," he added.

The escalated tension, which Moscow and Kiev blamed each other for provocative actions, prompted intensive high-level exchanges between the United States and relevant parties.

In a call with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Andriy Taran earlier in the day, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin condemned recent Russian escalations in eastern Ukraine and reiterated the U.S. commitment to building the capacity of Ukraine's forces to defend more effectively against Russian aggression, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters on Thursday's briefing.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, while Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held separate conversations with top military commanders in Ukraine and Russia.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that recent movements of Russian troops within the country's territory were aimed at safeguarding Russia's borders and posed no threat to others.

"Russia is taking necessary measures to ensure the security of its borders," Peskov said, adding that Moscow is aware of NATO's increased activities near its national borders.

The New York Times reported that the U.S. European Command in the past week raised its watch level from possible crisis to potential imminent crisis, the highest level, in response to the buildup of Russian forces on the border.

The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has killed some 14,000 people and left as many as 40,000 wounded, began in April 2014. Enditem

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