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US concerned by 'provocative' Russian troop movements: Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed concern to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday about "provocative" Russian troop movements along Ukraine's border, a US official said.

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed concern to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday about "provocative" Russian troop movements along Ukraine's border, a US official said.

In a morning call with his counterpart, Kerry also urged full Moscow support for efforts to free a mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe held hostage by pro-Moscow militants in the flashpoint eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk.

The top US diplomat "expressed continued concern that Russia's provocative troop movements on Ukraine's border, its support for separatists and its inflammatory rhetoric are undermining stability, security and unity in Ukraine," the senior State Department official said.

He also "urged Russian support without preconditions for the efforts of the OSCE and the Government of Ukraine to liberate the Vienna Document inspectors and their Ukrainian guides who are being held hostage by pro-Russian separatists in Slavyansk."

Kerry's comments came as the Group of Seven top economies and the European Union signalled they would step up economic pressure on Moscow early next week amid fears Russia was preparing an invasion of eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk meanwhile claimed Russia violated his country's airspace seven times overnight with an aim "to provoke" it into starting a war.

Moscow denied any transgression by its warplanes, with Lavrov calling for "urgent measures" to de-escalate the crisis that has plunged East-West relations to their lowest point since the Cold War.

During the same phone call, Kerry underscored efforts by Kiev to "promote broad and deep constitutional reform across the country and to contain the very dangerous and violent separatists in Slavyansk."

In addition, "he called on Russia to publicly support Ukraine's efforts rather than denigrate them."

Kerry and Lavrov also discussed efforts to remove chemical weapons from war-torn Syria, with the US diplomat stressing the need to complete the process.

He also said Washington planned to continue consultations with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations "to determine the facts" surrounding "reports of a recent attack involving a chemical, likely chlorine."

France and the United States allege that President Bashar al-Assad's forces may have unleashed industrial chemicals on a rebel-held village in central Hama province this month.

Activists have also reported chlorine gas attacks.

Russia said Friday it had proof the Syrian government was not behind the new spate of alleged chemical attacks in the country.

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