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MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia accused Ukraine on Wednesday of deploying half its army to confront pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, and said it had launched its own regular winter drills in its southern military district bordering Ukraine.
The announcements came at a time of high tension between the two countries, with NATO meeting for the second day to discuss a Russian troop build-up that Kyiv fears may be a prelude to an invasion. Moscow has consistently denied that, and sought to portray Ukraine and NATO as the aggressors.
"The Ukrainian army is building up its military strength, bringing in hardware and personnel," said Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry.
She said according to some reports, the number of troops in the conflict zone had already reached 125,000 people, "which is half of the entire Ukrainian army."
The Ukrainian military declined to comment on Zakharova's statement.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was alarmed by Kyiv's bolstering its forces in the Donbass region and he would discuss the situation with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a meeting in Stockholm on Thursday.
Moscow's defence ministry said the Russian winter drills would involve 10,000 troops across more than 30 training grounds. They would also take place in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and in a Russian region bordering the separatist-controlled Donbass area of eastern Ukraine.
Russia's ally Belarus has also announced joint military drills with Russia on its southern border with Ukraine.
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova, Alexander Marrow and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber in Moscow; Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Mark Trevelyan)