Putin’s statement comes amid hopes of a new peace deal this Wednesday

Russian president Vladimir Putin said Monday that the West was responsible for the Ukraine crisis. In an interview with Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram, Putin said the Western countries had broken their “hollow promises” not to expand NATO to include former Soviet Union countries. He accused NATO of threatening Russian interests by attempting to tear states that had been part of the former USSR off Russia and forcing them to make an “artificial choice” between Europe and Russia.

Russia Blames West For Ukraine Crisis As EU Delays Sanctions

France, Germany propose peace talks with Russia

He went on to accuse the Western countries of ousting former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych lost power last year amid massive protests over his decision to trash a deal that would have brought Ukraine closer to the European Union. Putin’s stern comments come amid possibility of new peace talks on Wednesday.

On Friday, French president Francois Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel visited Kiev and Moscow to discuss proposals for a renewed ceasefire and peace plan. Fighting between Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russia separatists is intense around the separatist-controlled town of Donetsk. The fighting in eastern Ukraine has claimed more than 5,000 lives. Russia has repeatedly denied sending troops and arms to help separatists.

Four-way peace summit to be held in Minsk

Details of the peace plan have not been revealed yet. But, according to BBC News, it may include a demilitarized zone of 30-40 miles around the current front line. After a four-way telephonic conversation between Putin, Merkel, Hollande and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko yesterday, the leaders agreed to a four-way summit in Minsk on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the European Union foreign ministers have delayed further sanctions on Russia by a week to February 16, citing progress with the new peace initiative.  European ministers wanted to send a clear signal that they wanted a peaceful resolution. If Wednesday’s peace talks go well, the EU countries could cancel the expansion of sanctions.

At least ten Ukrainian soldiers were killed in fresh fights in the last 24 hours, officials said.