Putin: Escalation takes Ukraine to brink of civil war

MOSCOW -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin have had a telephone conversation about the situation in Ukraine.

(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)

Despite their differences in interpenetrating the current events, the focus of the conversation were preparations for a meeting of representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the European Union and the United States scheduled for April 17 in Geneva, said the office of the German chancellor, according to Reuters.

Putin, as quoted by ITAR-TASS, told Merkel that "a sharp escalation of the conflict would essentially lead Ukraine to the brink of civil war."

The leaders of the two countries stressed the importance of the planned meeting in Geneva, it was also announced.

"It is hoped that the meeting in Geneva will manage to give a clear signal that will contribute to the transition of the situation to a peaceful track," according to the Kremlin.

Putin has also pointed to the importance of stabilizing the economy of Ukraine and ensuring delivery and transit of Russian natural gas to Europe, a topic he addressed in a letter sent to leaders of European countries on April 10.

The telephone conversation with Merkel, the Kremlin added.,was held at the initiative of the German side.

Putin also spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and said that the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine was the result of irresponsible policies of Kiev, which ignore the legitimate rights and interests of Ukraine's Russian-speaking residents.

During the conversation, it was emphasized that use of military force by the current regime to suppress protests of civilians in southeastern Ukraine was impermissible, the Russian president's press service said.

ITAR-TASS reported that Putin appraised the events in Ukraine at the request of Netanyahu.

The White House, on the other hand, said that due to provocations of pro-Russian groups Ukraine was faced with an "unsustainable" situation and praised the military operation Kiev launched on Tuesday as "restrained."

The situation remains tense in Ukraine on Wednesday, with still no official data on the number of casualties. According to reports, OSCE observers have arrived "to the northeastern" parts of the country.

The Ukrainian army launched on Tuesday what they said was an "anti-terrorist" operation against pro-Russian "people's militias" in the southeast, where four militiamen were reportedly killed during the takeover of a military airport.

However, there has been no official confirmation that anyone died during the incident.