Russian markets down amid escalating tensions in eastern Ukraine

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Ruble and stocks decline amid reports of a deadly firefight on the Russian-Ukrainian border

Russia’s financial markets and the ruble crashed on Monday on news of a military escalation on the Russian-Ukrainian border and the worsening standoff along the contact line in the breakaway Donbass region in Ukraine.

The Russian military has reported that its troops opened fire on a “Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group” that attempted to cross into the country, killing five servicemen.

Earlier, officials in the breakaway republic of Donetsk reportedly called on Moscow to send urgent help amid a worsening standoff across the contact line.

The dollar-denominated RTS index of leading Russian stocks nosedived 10% while the ruble-based MOEX benchmark slid 7.8% to 3,129 points.

The national currency followed a similar trajectory, falling over 1% to trade above 79 rubles against the dollar and 90 against the euro.

The sell-off wiped out earlier Monday gains that had been chalked up to the announcement of a potential Russia-US meeting over the Ukraine crisis. French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday night that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart, Joe Biden, have both agreed in principle to hold a meeting to halt the escalation of the conflict.

On Monday, officials in Donetsk declared a state of emergency, saying that their pump stations had stopped working amid the shelling and that they were unable to distribute drinking water. On Friday, the rebel leaders of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk announced they had begun evacuating residents to Russia as a result of the deteriorating security situation, and ordered the mobilization of all able-bodied men to be ready to fight in a potential conflict.

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