Russian leader Vladimir Putin warned that Ukraine is on the verge of civil war, the Kremlin said Wednesday, after the Kiev government sent in troops against pro-Moscow separatists in the east of the country.
“The Russian president remarked that the sharp escalation of the conflict has placed the country, in effect, on the verge of civil war,” the Kremlin said in a statement on telephone talks between Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
But the leaders both “emphasised the importance” of planned four-way talks on Ukraine on Thursday between top diplomats of Russia, the European Union, the United States and Ukraine.
Ukraine pushed tanks towards a flashpoint eastern city on Tuesday to quash a separatist surge backed by Moscow — a high-risk operation that was sharply condemned by the Kremlin but won Washington’s support.
The 20 tanks and armoured personnel carriers sent to Slavyansk were the most forceful response yet by the Western-backed government in Kiev to the pro-Kremlin militants’ occupation of state buildings in nearly 10 cities across Ukraine’s rust belt.
“They must be warned that if they do not lay down their arms, they will be destroyed,” Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) General Vasyl Krutov told a group of reporters tracking the sudden tank movements.