Russia brushed off German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s call to pull back troops massed near the border with Ukraine, warning that growing violence there could set off a broader military conflict.
“The escalation of tensions in the southeast of Ukraine justifies the measures Russia is taking,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on a conference call Friday, referring to the military buildup. “The trend in the behavior of the Ukrainian side creates the risk of a resumption of full-scale military action,” he said.
Ceasefire violations in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine have grown in recent weeks and Russia has moved thousands of troops into the area near the border. Moscow accuses Ukraine of preparing for a new offensive against the Russian-backed separatist regions there. Kyiv denies that and has blamed Moscow for the latest surge in tensions.
Calling the current escalation “rather unprecedented,” Peskov’s comments seemed to reflect a hardening of Russia’s position. They came a day after the Kremlin’s top envoy for the conflict seemed to play down the significance of what Moscow claims is a military buildup by Kyiv in the contested region.