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Russia, Ukraine expel diplomats as tensions soar

Russia says it will expel a Ukrainian diplomat, prompting an immediate pledge of retaliation from Kiev, further escalating tensions over Moscow’s troop build-up on Ukraine’s eastern flank.

The detention of a Ukrainian consul in the second city Saint Petersburg comes at a time of global concern of a repeat of Moscow’s 2014 aggression, when Russia annexed the peninsula of Crimea and backed separatists in Ukraine’s east.

Moscow claims the Ukrainian diplomat had been caught “red-handed” trying to obtain sensitive information.

In response, the Ukrainian foreign ministry protested “the illegal” detention of its diplomat and said Kiev would expel a senior Russian diplomat.

Kiev has been battling Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014 and clashes intensified early this year, effectively shredding a ceasefire agreed to last July.

Around 30 Ukrainian troops have been killed since the start of the year, compared to 50 last year. Most of them were victims of sniper fire.

Russia has detained a number of Ukrainian nationals on suspicion of spying in recent years but the arrest of a diplomat is rare.

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