Ukraine puts troops along Crimean border on combat alert

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) — Ukraine’s president ordered the army to be on combat alert Thursday on the country’s de-facto border with Crimea and on the front line in eastern Ukraine following Moscow’s accusations that Ukraine sent in “saboteurs” to carry out attacks in Crimea.

Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014 following a hastily called referendum. The move sparked Russia-backed separatists to begin fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine, where deadly battles are still ongoing.

The Russian intelligence agency FSB on Wednesday said one of its officers and an army soldier were killed over the weekend in two separate incidents while fending off what Moscow described as a series of attacks by Ukrainian “saboteurs.”

 Ukraine rejected the claims as “fantasy” and “a provocation.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin upped the ante when he directly accused the Ukrainian government of plotting the attacks and called a meeting of the country’s top brass on Thursday to discuss boosting security in Crimea following reports of the foiled attacks.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on his official Twitter account Thursday that the army will be put on combat alert not only on the de-factor border with Crimea but also the line of contact in eastern Ukraine, where both sides were supposed to have pulled back heavy weapons.

Like Putin, Poroshenko also held a meeting with the country’s top security agencies earlier on Thursday. The Ukrainian government did not immediately specify what further steps it was taking after putting forces on combat alert.

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