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Ukraine puts troops on combat alert as tensions with Russia spiral

Petro Poroshenko, the president of Ukraine, ordered his country’s armed forces onto combat alert on Thursday amid a dramatic escalation of military tensions along the frontier with Russia and Crimea.

The order came a day after President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of launching cross border raids into the Russian-controlled peninsula that killed two servicemen.

“I ordered a high level alert of all units in the region of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and along the entire contact line in Donbas,” Mr Poroshenko said after meeting with his national security council on Thursday afternoon.

Earlier Mr Putin chaired a meeting with Russian security chiefs to discuss "additional measures for ensuring security for citizens and essential infrastructure in Crimea," the Kremlin said in a statement.

The United Nations Security Council was to meet to discus the crisis on Thursday evening at the request of Ukraine, a non-permanent member.

Russia annexed Crimea before invading eastern Ukraine in support of a separatist insurgency in 2014, sparking a war that has killed over 9,500 people. Crimea itself has previously been unaffected by the violence in eastern Ukraine.

Moscow and Kiev have accused one another of dangerous troop build ups in recent weeks, raising fears of a return to the all out warfare that tore Ukraine apart in 2014.

Russia’s Federal Security Service said one of its officers and one soldier were killed in a series of fire fights on Crimea’s frontier with Ukraine between Saturday night and Monday morning.

Three Ukrainians captured during the skirmishes confessed to planning a series of explosions in the region’s resorts in a bid to sow panic and destroy the Crimean tourism industry, security sources told Russian media on Thursday.