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Putin scrambles military units near Ukraine

MOSCOW -- Russian military units have been scrambled from their bases as part of snap drills ordered by President Vladimir Putin, the latest in a series of Russian war games amid tensions with the West over Ukraine.

The Defense Ministry said the maneuvers that began Monday will last for five days and involve forces of the Central Military District, a group of forces spreading from the Volga River all the way to eastern Siberia, along with air force and airborne units.

Ukraine crisis: Cease-fire threatened as nations toughen stances

Gen. Sergei Koshelev briefed foreign military attaches about the exercise, saying they are aimed to check the troops' combat readiness and don't threaten any country. He described the maneuvers as "another snap check, similar to those that have been held in the past and will be held in the future."

Last week, Ukrainian lawmakers took up a measure to give greater powers to separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The decentralization of power was a condition demanded by Russia for a truce signed in Minsk in February aimed at ending the fighting between Ukrainian government troops and Russia-backed separatists that has left more than 6,800 dead since April 2014.

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