Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Ukraine is on the verge of a civil war. Putin's warning comes after Kyiv deployed troops against Pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Speaking with Chancellor Merkel via phone on Tuesday, President Putin condemned Kyiv's deployment of troops against pro-Russian separatists as an "anti-constitutional" attempt "to forcefully suppress protests" in eastern Ukraine.
"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 press release.
Merkel and Putin expressed hope that talks between envoys from the EU, US, Russia and Ukraine in Geneva on Thursday could "take the situation in a peaceful direction," according to the Kremlin.
But earlier on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that any action by Kyiv against the pro-Moscow separatists could undermine Thursday's planned talks .
US plans more sanctions
Meanwhile, the United States has said that additional sanctions would likely be imposed against Moscow for its alleged involvement in the unrest in eastern Ukraine.
"Not only do we anticipate additional sanctions at some point, we're preparing additional steps," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington on Tuesday. But Psaki went on to say that Washington was unlikely to impose more sanctions before Thursday's talks in Geneva.
Kyiv launched a military operation against armed pro-Russian separatists on Tuesday, after they refused to vacate government buildings in at least nine cities in eastern Ukraine by a Monday deadline.
In the first stage of the operation, Ukrainian forces seized an airfield at Kramatorsk. Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov told parliament that the government was deploying troops to northern Donetsk, a region that borders Russia.
"The goal is to protect citizens from terrorists who are trying to tear this country apart," Turchynov said.
slk/jm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)