The issue of providing additional Russian forces to help Russian-backed separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine is the defence ministry’s prerogative, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.

Denis Pushilin, leader of the Russian-backed separatist Donetsk region, has asked for additional troops from Moscow because of the upsurge in fighting in the region, which Moscow wants to carve out of Ukraine.

In a media briefing, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov restated one of Moscow's justifications for sending troops into Ukraine: that it had to protect the mostly Russian-speaking people of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, collectively known as the Donbas.

Kyiv rejects the accusation of oppression of Russian-speakers as a baseless pretext for a land grab.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey)