The German chancellor has called on the Kremlin to inaugurate a military formation to “non-increase” the situation in Donbass.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to bring back a military installation near the Ukrainian border amid escalating tensions in the Donbass region.
Since rebels seized large swathes of territory there in April 2014, Ukrainian government forces have been fighting Russian-backed separatists in the country’s eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
The escalation of hostilities has intensified in recent weeks, with Ukraine raising concerns about the increase in Russian forces on the border and the renewal of front-line clashes.
“The chancellor has demanded that the talks be stopped,” the German government said in a telephone conversation between Merkel and Putin.
The Kremlin, on its part, said in a review of the phone call that “Vladimir Putin referred to Kiev’s provocative actions that were deliberately provoking the situation on the border of communication.”
Zelensky went to the front line
Merkel and Putin had a conversation on Thursday when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky flew to the front lines of the Donbass conflict.
Zelensky earlier this week called on NATO to find a way to join Ukraine’s military bloc, the expansion of which Moscow has vehemently opposed, saying it is the only way to end the Donbass conflict.
He said the move would act as a “strong deterrent” to Russia, which unified the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine in March 2014 that ousted Kremlin-former President Viktor Yanukovych after the uprising.
Zelensky has recently accused Russia of flexing its military muscles over the formation of armies along its divided border.
Russia has said in the past that its forces did not pose a threat and that they were defensive, but that they would remain there until Moscow was right.
However, Moscow announced on Tuesday that it had begun a planned inspection of its army’s war preparations involving thousands of exercises.
Kremlin officials have warned of an “end to Ukraine.”
Adding to concerns about a possible large-scale conflict on Thursday, a senior Kremlin official said Thursday that Russia could be forced to protect its citizens in the Donbass under certain circumstances.
Dmitry Kozak, the deputy head of Russia’s presidential administration, was quoted by Russia’s Tass news agency as saying that the Ukrainian government was like “kids coming to play matches”.
“I support the assessment that the beginning of military action – this will be the beginning of the end of Ukraine,” he said.
Moscow has denied interfering in the Donbass, but Ukraine and several Western countries have said that separatist forces in the region are armed, led, financed and aided by the Russians.
In 2015, the ceasefire completely stopped the fighting, the sporadic clashes never stopped.
Kiev estimates that more than 14,000 people have died in the fighting.