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Russian diplomats deny Moscow executed soldiers on battlefield

(Reuters) - Russian diplomats on Friday dismissed as lies a White House allegation that Moscow's military was executing its own soldiers if they refused to carry out battlefield orders in Ukraine.

"Whoever came up with these other-worldly lies could only have been a person with an imagination far into overdrive," the Russian embassy in Washington said in comments carried by the RIA Novosti news agency.

"And all this simply to justify the failed, much publicised counteroffensive of its (Ukrainian) ward. Let us say with full responsibility that all insinuations about this in comments by the White House spokesperson are a lie."

White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Thursday that the U.S government had information the Russian military had been executing soldiers who refuse orders.

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"We also have information that Russian commanders are threatening to execute entire units if they seek to retreat from Ukrainian artillery fire," he said.

Kirby provided no evidence for his assertions.

Ukraine has launched a counteroffensive, which has regained villages in the south and east, but is moving more slowly than an advance last year through occupied northeastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday that Russian losses had grown significantly in the past week. These included, he said, at least a brigade worth of troops trying to advance on the eastern town of Avdiivka.

(Reporting by Ron Popeski; Editing by Daniel Wallis)