Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia on Monday of “direct and undisguised aggression” which he said had radically changed the battlefield balance as Kiev’s forces suffered a further reverse in their war with pro-Moscow separatists.
In the latest in a string of setbacks, Ukraine’s military said it had pulled back from defending a vital airport in the east of the country, near the city of Luhansk, where troops had been battling a Russian tank battalion.
Poroshenko said in a speech there would be high-level personnel changes in the Ukrainian armed forces, whose troops fled a new rebel advance in the south which Kiev and its Western allies say has been backed up by Russian armoured columns.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who called on Sunday for immediate negotiations on the “statehood” of southern and eastern Ukraine, blamed Kiev’s leadership for refusing to enter into direct political talks with the separatists.
With German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressing that accepting Russia’s behaviour was not an option, EU ambassadors were to start discussing a new package of measures that could include a ban on Europeans buying Russian government bonds, EU sources said.
However, speaking during a visit to Siberia, Putin called for the EU to think twice about stepping up the sanctions, which were first imposed after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine in March.
“I hope that common sense will prevail and we will work in a normal modern way,” the Interfax news agency reported him as saying. Meanwhile, Putin also won support from China. “Sanctions do not help to solve the underlying problems in Ukraine,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.