KIEV/MOSCOW, April 24 (Xinhua) -- Ukrainian acting President Alexandr Turchynov on Thursday urged Russia to pull back its troops from the joint border following Moscow's announcement of military exercises in response to Kiev's "anti-terror" operation.
"We demand Russia to stop interference in Ukraine's internal affairs, end the constant threats and blackmail and withdraw its troops from the eastern border of our country," Turchynov said in a televised address.
He again accused Russia of fomenting separatist movement in eastern Ukrainian regions, saying that Moscow "supports terrorists and murderers."
Moscow had begun drills near the border with Ukraine in response to Kiev's "anti-terror" operation, which left five pro- Moscow protesters dead, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
"The starting gun to use weapons against their own civilians has already been fired (in Ukraine). If today this military machine is not stopped, it will lead to a large number of the dead and wounded. Nor is the situation around Ukraine being helped by the announced drills of NATO troops in Poland and the Baltic States," Shoigu was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.
Russia has to react "to such development," the defense chief said before a government meeting in Moscow.
Shoigu also said the air forces began forming army aviation brigades and helicopter regiments that were unprecedented, adding that the troops were receiving new and upgraded versions of aircraft.
Earlier in the day, Ukrainian Interior Ministry said five " separatist militants" were killed during "counter-terror" actions at three checkpoints set by a pro-Russia militia outside the city of Slavyansk.
Also on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that Moscow believed the main condition to solve the ongoing crisis in Ukraine was to "stop illegal actions of current Kiev authorities which should understand their responsibility for everything agreed upon in Geneva."
The United States should use its influence to make the Ukrainian authorities fulfill their commitment of the Geneva agreement on Ukraine, Lavrov said after a meeting with his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil in Moscow.
The Ukrainian government on Wednesday resumed its "anti-terror" operation in eastern regions after pro-Russia activists allegedly kidnapped and tortured several journalists and murdered a pro- government politician.
Kiev suspended its "counter-terror" measures last week following an agreement with Russia, the United States and the European Union in Geneva, which calls on all sides of the conflict to refrain from violence.
A new wave of unrest erupted in Ukraine's east early April, when pro-Moscow activists seized government buildings in the cities of Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkov.
Kiev has repeatedly blamed Moscow for inciting the unrest and splitting Ukraine, charges denied by Russia.