Russia's military 'masses weapons, tanks and artillery' at base close to border with Ukraine

The Kuzminsky firing range lies just 30 miles away from Ukraine

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The Independent Online

Russia’s military is reportedly gathering troops and stockpiling weaponry, rocket launchers and tanks at a military base close to the border with Ukraine.

A reporter for the Reuters news agency who claimed to have seen weaponry massing at the base said number plates and identifying marks had been removed from many of the vehicles, while some soldiers had removed insignia from their uniforms.

The base is located on the Kuzminsky firing range, which lies about 50 km (30 miles) from the Ukrainian border.

Some of the weapons include types used in eastern Ukraine between where government forces have been battling pro-Russian separatists, such as multiple rocket launchers, tanks and self-propelled howitzers.

Soldiers at the base said they had been deployed there for training exercises.

Reuters reported seeing four goods trains transporting military vehicles and troops arriving at a rail station in the Rostov region of southern Russia, with at least two trainloads continuing towards the base by road.

It said a large section of dirt road leading across the steppe from the Kuzminsky range to the Ukrainian border had been recently repaired, making it easier to transport heavy vehicles across.

A human rights campaigner who worked with families of Russian servicemen told the agency she had information to suggest Rostov was being used as a staging post for troops heading to Ukraine. This could not be independently verified.

Ukraine claims Russia is assisting separatist rebels militarily, a claim Russia has denied throughout the protracted conflict.

Reuters said the amount of military hardware at the base was triple what had been seen in March this year, when only a few dozen pieces of equipment were visible.

The Russian defence ministry refused to comment on reports at the base, while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on whether large numbers of weapons and troops being amassed was a signal of a forthcoming invasion.

He told reporters: "I find the wording of this question, 'if an invasion is being prepared', inappropriate as such."