About 8,500 Russian troops are taking part in military exercises near the border with Ukraine involving artillery and multiple rocket launchers, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

A statement on the ministry's website confirmed that the exercises had begun at bases in the Southern Military District but did not say how long they would last.

The exercises are likely to cause concern in Ukraine because of the political standoff between Kiev and Moscow over Ukraine's Crimea region, which is now in the hands of Russian forces.


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