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EU warns 'a spark' could ignite confrontation on Russia, Ukraine border

EU warns 'a spark' could ignite confrontation on Russia, Ukraine border
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The European Union's (EU) top foreign policy minister warned Monday that tensions on the Ukraine-Russia border were at an all-time high, adding that "a spark" could set off a war between the two countries.

Josep Borrell, the EU's high representative for foreign policy, added Monday in an address to foreign affairs ministers of EU nations that the organization commended Ukraine for its measured response thus far, while calling on Russia to "defuse" tensions.

"We commented about the situation on the border. The Russian military build-up at the Ukrainian border is very concerning. There are more than 150,000 Russian troops amassing at the Ukrainian borders and in Crimea. The risk of further escalation is evident," he said, though the figure was revised down to 100,000 in an official transcript of his remarks.

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"We have to commend Ukraine for its restrained response and we urge Russia to de-escalate and to defuse tensions," said Borrell.

His remarks come as the U.S. has moved at least two warships to the Black Sea in support of Ukraine's government, which is not a member of NATO but has applied for membership, while Russia's navy has also beefed up its presence in the area and restricted the movement of foreign warships near Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.

In Borrell's statements Monday, he again referred to the annexation of Crimea as "illegal," echoing a stance that the U.S. and other nations have taken against the 2014 move that saw a large portion of Ukraine's territory vote to secede.

“All in all, the relations with Russia, are not improving, but the contrary, the tension is increasing in different fronts,” Borrell said.

“We call on Russia to withdraw their troops,” he added.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have led to fears that Russia's tens of thousands of troops near the border could soon launch an invasion, forcing the U.S. to choose between watching the country in all likelihood lose a military conflict with Russia or support its much-smaller military.