KIEV, Nov 22 : Russia has 7,500 troops in the east of the country, where pro-Moscow separatists have been fighting government troops for months, Ukraine's defence minister said.
"Unfortunately, the stabilisation of the situation in the east of Ukraine does not depend only on us," Stepan Poltorak said in a statement posted on the ministry's website on Saturday.
"The presence of 7,500 representatives of Russian armed forces in Ukraine destabilises the situation and prevents us from stabilising it."
Cash-strapped Ukraine also plans to "increase the strength of the armed forces" and boost levels of arms and equipment, Poltorak added.
He pledged this would take place "in the nearest time" but did not give a more specific timeframe.
Ukraine's new coalition government declared joining NATO a priority Friday in a move which is likely to provoke fresh anger from Russia.
Four soldiers, civilian killed
Meanwhile, four Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and 10 others wounded in unrest in the east during the past 24 hours, security officials in Kiev said on Saturday.
One civilian, a 60-year-old man, was also killed in the eastern region of Lugansk on Friday, the governor's office announced. Ukrainian forces are locked in a struggle with pro-Moscow separatists for territory in eastern Ukraine. ?AFP