German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Russian President Putin on Thursday to pull back the Kremlin’s military build-up near the border with Ukraine, while he in turn accused Kiev of “provocative actions” in the conflict region.
The US, too, said it is increasingly concerned about what it sees as escalating Russian aggression and was discussing the issue with its Nato allies.
“Russia now has more troops on the border with Ukraine than at any time since 2014,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in Washington, referring to the period when Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine.
Officials in Ukraine and the West have raised concerns about increasingly frequent ceasefire violations in the country’s industrial heartland, known as Donbas.
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited the area of conflict on Thursday and accused Russia of flexing its military muscles. In Moscow, a senior Kremlin official sternly warned Ukraine against using force to reclaim control of the rebel east, saying that this might force Russia to step in to protect civilians there.