Sources close to the Russian military said on Thursday that Russian naval forces in the Black Sea had been put on heightened alert to discourage Ukraine from trying to disrupt the soccer World Cup as the tournament got under way.
However, the Defence Ministry itself dismissed the reports, saying in a statement: "The forces of the Black Sea Fleet are working in routine mode. No measures to put (them) on high combat alert have taken place."
Reuters was not able to verify a Ukrainian build-up independently, and there was no confirmation of that from officials in Kiev.
Three sources said Russia's forces around the Black Sea Crimea peninsula had been put on a state of high combat readiness. Two of them said it was linked to the tournament.
"Because of the World Cup and expectations of possible provocations by Ukraine around the Crimean coast, commanders took the decision to increase the fleet's level of military preparedness," said one of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media about operational plans.
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