The fresh outbreak of violence in eastern Ukraine has thrown efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis into jeopardy.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea last month sent relations with the West to the lowest level since the Cold War, but there was some sign of rapprochement, with negotiations between ministers from Russia, the European Union, the United States and Ukraine scheduled to take place in Geneva in the coming week. Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, has warned that Moscow will pull out of the talks if Ukraine uses force against “residents of the south-east who were driven to despair”.
The United Nations Security Council has called a closed, emergency meeting at Russia’s request at 1am UK time.
Since the crisis began last November, very different versions of events have emanated from Moscow and Brussels. Russia has accused the EU of meddling in Ukraine’s affairs, while the EU and US have blamed Moscow for waging a campaign of intimidation and blackmail.
The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said on Twitter that Russia must “desist from steps which destabilise Ukraine”.
John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, warned Mr Lavrov on Sunday of more serious sanctions if Russia did not take steps to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Secretary General of Nato, said that the “ reappearance of men with specialised Russian weapons and identical uniforms without insignia” was similar to the combat gear seen in Crimea, and was “a grave development”.
Russia has denied any plans to invade more Ukrainian territory, but President Vladimir Putin does have parliamentary approval to send soldiers into the country if ethnic Russians come under attack.
Ukraine will top the agenda at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday. The 28 member states are also awaiting proposals from the bloc’s administrative arm on broader economic sanctions on Russia which could target the nation’s energy sector.