File photo: Stringer Germany

London - Germany's benchmark DAX equity index turned negative on Thursday, underperforming other major European markets due to new worries about an escalation in tensions between Russia and Western powers over Ukraine.

The DAX was down by 0.1 percent at 9,534.26 points by 1325 GMT, coming off an intra-day high of 9,645.06 points and underperforming a 0.4 percent gain on the broader, pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index.

Austria's ATX equity index also fell, down 0.2 percent. German and Austrian are companies among the most exposed in Europe to Russia and Ukraine.

The indexes moved lower after Russia Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that Russia had started military drills near the Ukrainian border on Thursday, in response to operations by Ukrainian forces against pro-Russian separatists and NATO exercises in eastern Europe.