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Russian defense minister reassures US colleague on Ukraine

Shoigu and Secretary of Defense Hagel held a telephone conversation on Monday discussing the tense situation in Ukraine

WASHINGTON, April 29. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu gave reassurances to his US counterpart Chuck Hagel that Russia had no plans of bringing its troops to Ukraine, a spokesman for Pentagon said.

Shoigu and Secretary of Defense Hagel held a telephone conversation on Monday discussing the tense situation in Ukraine.

Following the conversation Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement that Shoigu "reiterated his assurance that Russian forces would not invade [Ukraine]."

Kirby also said in the statement that Hagel "repeated his call for an end to Russia's destabilizing influence inside Ukraine and warned that continued aggression would further isolate Russia and result in more diplomatic and economic pressure."

On Monday the United States introduced a third set of sanctions against Russia. The new US measures envisioned sanctions against seven Russian officials as well as 17 country’s companies. Canada and the European Union also announced new sanctions against Russia on Monday.

Following the talks between Shoigu and Hagel, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that the military officials “had a frank one-hour conversation and exchanged concerns about tensions in Ukraine.”

Some western media allegations about Moscow’s intentions to invade Ukraine emerged after Russia launched military drills last week in the country’s regions bordering on Ukraine.

Shoigu told Hagel that under the pretext of “fighting terrorism” the Kiev regime had amassed about 80 tanks, over 130 armored personnel carriers and fighting vehicles, at least 60 artillery systems and mortars in the southeast of Ukraine. Combat aircraft and helicopters are engaged on a regular basis. The overall number of Ukrainian troops has reached 15,000 personnel, and “all this against the peaceful population of their own country”, the minister said.

“The possibility of forceful actions against peaceful people prompted Russia to launch large-scale maneuvers on the national territory in regions bordering on Ukraine. This decision was made public,” he said. “However, as soon as the Ukrainian authorities announced that they had no intention to use regular military units against unarmed people, the Russian units were ordered back to their bases.”

Shoigu also flatly denied “unfounded assertions” about the presence of Russian sabotage and reconnaissance groups in Ukraine where they are allegedly destabilizing the situation in southeastern regions of the country.

The situation in Ukraine is far from stable after a coup in February, which brought to power new people amid deadly riots as President Viktor Yanukovich had to leave the country citing security concerns.

After Crimea's accession to Russia, which Kiev and Western countries do not accept despite Russia’s repeated statements that the Crimean plebiscite was in line with the international law, protests against the new Kiev leaders erupted in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeastern regions. Demonstrators, who are demanding referendums on the country’s federalization, took control of some government buildings.

Ukrainian parliament-appointed interim head of state Alexander Turchinov on April 15 announced the start of an antiterrorism operation in the Donetsk Region in eastern Ukraine, apparently aimed to crack down on federalization supporters.