BRUSSELS/DONETSK Ukraine (Reuters) – EU officials proposed sanctions on Tuesday to starve Russian firms of cash as punishment for Moscow’s role in Ukraine, where rebels said they were storming Donetsk airport, potentially their biggest prize since turning the war’s tide last week.
Russia denies its troops are involved in fighting on the ground, in the face of what Western countries and Ukraine say is overwhelming evidence.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby estimated there were thousands of Russian forces inside Ukraine.
“You want to talk provocative? Let’s talk about a few thousand Russian troops inside eastern Ukraine, continuing to support separatists, with heavy weapon systems, and more than 10,000 troops arrayed along the southeast border with Ukraine,” Kirby told a news briefing.
According to the United Nations, the war, in which pro-Russian separatists are fighting to throw off rule from Kiev, has killed more than 2,600 people and driven nearly a million from their homes in eastern Ukraine.
Rebels in Donetsk, the biggest city under their control, said they were close to recapturing its airport from Ukrainian troops who had defended it since capturing it two months ago.
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