MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday denied that Moscow had sent any soldiers or security agents to Ukraine's eastern regions where a separatist movement has demanded independence from Kiev.
"We are accused of having security agents there. They are not there," Mr Lavrov was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying on state television.
"We have no troops there by definition," he added. "We don't have our soldiers there, and we don't have our agents there."
"There are Russian citizens there. But that is not surprising, since on the Maidan there were all kinds of people," he said, referring to the Independence Square that was the locus of mass protests that brought down the pro-Russian government in Kiev earlier this year.
The new government in Kiev has accused Moscow of stirring unrest in its predominantly Russian-speaking regions to the east, including the towns of Donetsk and Lugansk where pro-Russian protesters have occupied government buildings and are demanding independence.
Ukraine's security service (SBU) said on Wednesday it had detained a 22-year-old Russian female spy carrying a weapon who was suspected of carrying out sabotage on the orders of the Russian security service in the southern city of Mykolayiv.