Russian President Vladimir Putin. Pic: AP.

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin is flying to Mongolia for a working visit amid a Kremlin-backed offensive in Ukraine that has sharply raised tensions with Washington and NATO.

Putin is due to arrive in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator on Wednesday afternoon for talks with Mongolian President Elbegdorj Tsakhia expected to focus on transport and trade links.

With Western investment declining, Mongolia is turning increasingly to China and Russia to support its economy based on mining and animal herding. Mongolia relies on Russia for 76 percent of its gasoline and diesel fuel and much of its electricity.

Ukrainian officials say their country’s armed forces are now locked in a conflict with not only Moscow-backed separatists, but also the Russian army, although Putin has denied that his forces are invading Ukraine.