vladimir putin.jpg
Photograph: Hina/ BETA/ Marko RUPENA/ik

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday vowed to take steps to ensure safety in Crimea, hours after Russian authorities accused Ukraine of attempting to attack critical infrastructure in the region with two Russians killed in related clashes.

"We will certainly do our utmost to ensure safety of infrastructure and citizens. We will take additional measures to ensure safety," Putin said in comments carried by state news agency TASS.

Earlier in the day, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), a successor agency of the Soviet KGB, said it had detained several men who were in possession of 20 explosive devices and were believed to have been working for Ukraine's military intelligence agency.

Two Russians - a soldier and a member of the FSB - were killed while trying to detain the Ukrainian military cell, the FSB said in a statement on its website.

Ukraine quickly denied the allegation. "Ukraine is not and will not retake its territory with force," Yury Tandit of Ukraine's Security Service told the Interfax news agency.

The claims follow a recent surge in fighting in eastern Ukraine, with last month reported as the most deadly in more than a year.

Russia occupied and annexed Ukraine's southern Crimea region two years ago in response to Kiev ousting its pro-Russian president amid mass protests calling for closer ties with the West.

Soon after Russia annexed Crimea, a pro-Russian separatist rebellion erupted in Ukraine's two eastern-most regions. Ukraine has accused Russia of fuelling the conflict with weapons and soldiers for the separatists, allegations Moscow has denied.

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