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US to send 600 troops to Eastern Europe to reassure allies

Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov
AP
Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov

The United States will send about 600 U.S. troops to Poland and the three Baltic states to take part in exercises in the coming days to reassure NATO allies following Russia's seizure of the Crimean region from Ukraine, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

Rear Admiral John Kirby, a top Defense Department spokesman, said the bilateral exercises planned for Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were in addition to the regular training schedule the U.S. military has with those countries and were added due to the events in Ukraine.

"The United States takes seriously our obligations under Article 5 of the NATO alliance, even though these aren't NATO exercises,'' Kirby said. "It's a very tangible representation of our commitment to our security obligations in Europe."

Earlier on Tuesday, Ukraine's acting president called for an anti-terrorist operation to be relaunched in the east of the country after the body of a local politician from his own party was found showing signs of torture.

Ukraine's security forces had largely suspended what was a fairly limited operation to respond to the takeover of eastern town by pro-Russian separatists after an accord with Moscow last week to try to defuse the crisis. Oleksander Turchinov's call for action could complicate the task of European mediators.

The acting president said in a statement that two "brutally tortured'' bodies had been found near the city of Slaviansk, which is in the hands of pro-Russian militants. One was that of Volodymyr Rybak, a member of Turchinov's Batkivshchyna party, who had recently been abducted by "terrorists''.

"These crimes are being carried out with the full support and indulgence of the Russian Federation,'' he said. "I call on the security agencies to relaunch and carry out effective anti-terrorist measures, with the aim of protecting Ukrainian citizens living in eastern Ukraine from terrorists.''

In a statement from regional headquarters in Donetsk, police said the body of a man who died a violent death had been found in the Seversky-Donets river and that it resembled Rybak, a local councillor in the town of Horlivka, near Donetsk.

Formal identification would need further work, police said.

Local media said Rybak was abducted in Horlivka, a nearby locality, last Wednesday.

Batkivshchyna leader Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister and great rival of the ousted Kremlin-backed Ukrainian president, was visiting Donetsk on Tuesday. She is running in the presidential election scheduled for May 25.

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