World Moscow could 'defend' Russia-backed Ukraine rebels
Russia warns U.S. to stay away from Ukraine for its "own good"
U.S. and Russia both reportedly sending warships into Black Sea amid fast-escalating standoff that Ukraine calls a struggle "between democracies and authoritarianism."The Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Friday that Washington had informed Ankara that two U.S. warships would pass through Turkish waters this week to be deployed in the Black Sea. The deployment would come amid a significant escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Ukraine's forces, which have U.S. and European support.
Russia might come to the rescue of the rebels it backs in eastern Ukraine, a senior Kremlin official has warned.
"Everything depends on the scale of the conflagration," Dmitry Kozak told a conference in Moscow, as tension builds in the region.
Ukraine's Donbas region has been a flashpoint since the separatists seized swathes of territory in 2014.
Low-level, sporadic clashes between the rebels and Ukrainian forces have broken out in recent weeks.
Each side accuses the other of violating a ceasefire.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the region on Thursday to see "the locations of the escalation" and "be with our soldiers in the tough times in Donbas".
Quick guide to Russia-Ukraine military tensions
What you need to know about Russia's troop build-up around eastern Ukraine.Russia's intentions are far from clear, but here's a quick guide to the latest developments.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on Russia to reduce its military presence on the border with Ukraine.
In Moscow, Mr Kozak likened the current situation of the separatists to Srebrenica, the town in Bosnia-Hercegovina where 8,000 Muslim men were killed by Bosnian Serb forces in 1995.
"If, as our president says, there is a Srebrenica there, we shall probably have to come to their defence," Mr Kozak said. He is the deputy head of Russia's presidential administration.
Mr Kozak suggested the rebels could hold their own for now against Ukrainian forces as they consisted of "battle-hardened units".
He also warned Ukraine not to increase hostilities against the rebels, saying it would be the "beginning of the end" for the country. At the same time, he urged calm and stability.
Ukraine says Putin ignoring request to talk amid Russian troop buildup
Moscow denies receiving "any requests in the past several days" for a dialogue as Ukraine says there are 40,000 Russian forces at its border and 40,000 more in Crimea.Tension between the neighbors has grown steadily for several weeks, with intensified skirmishes in eastern Ukraine — a region that has been mired in conflict since Russia first backed Ukrainian separatists there seven years ago. Putin has sent thousands of forces toward the Ukrainian border recently, raising concerns among politicians in the United States and European Union.
Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014 and support for the separatists in Donbas have been a long-running sore in relations between the two countries.
Western countries condemned Moscow over its actions at the time and imposed sanctions.
Russia denies sending troops to the Donbas region and characterises Russian fighters there as "volunteers".
The US put its forces in Europe on a higher level of alert last week and President Joe Biden re-affirmed his support for Ukraine's "sovereignty and territorial integrity".
In the latest sign of tension, the rebels said one of their fighters was killed on Thursday when Ukrainian troops fired 14 mortar bombs at a village on the outskirts of the city of Donetsk.
Ukraine says 25 of its soldiers have been killed in the conflict so far this year.
Chancellor Merkel spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone on Thursday and called on Russia to "de-escalate tensions" by reducing its troop reinforcements.
In the same call, Mr Putin accused Ukraine of inflaming the situation in the east.
Military tension between Russia and Ukraine escalates .
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine started more than seven years ago when Russia annexed the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula. Now, the two countries are at war in eastern Ukraine. The so-called “frozen conflict” has heated up again. Fighting is escalating in eastern Ukraine despite a ceasefire, and there have been reports of military buildup in Crimea and on the Russian side of the border. Host Carol Hills speaks with Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commanding general of the US Army in Europe until 2017. TRANSCRIPT:Carol Hills:For the past seven years, Russia and Ukraine have been engaged in what's called a 'frozen conflict.' Now it’s heating up again.