Russia says starts military drills in response to Ukraine

A Russian serviceman stands near Ukrainian tanks on freight cars before the departure from Crimea. Russia is withdrawing a motorized infantry battalion from a region near Ukraine's eastern border.

NATO MOSCOW - Russia started military drills near the Ukrainian border with on Thursday in response to operations by Ukrainian forces against pro-Russian separatists and NATO exercises in eastern Europe, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

"If this military machine is not stopped, it will lead to greater numbers of dead and wounded. Planned exercises by NATO forces in Poland and the Baltic countries do not foster normalisation of the situation surrounding Ukraine, either,"Shoigu was quoted as saying. "We are forced to react to such a development of the situation."