Accusations continue to fly between the two nations amid heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine, with civilians coming under fire.
According to Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, there are over 9,000 Russian troops on the ground in the conflict zone. He claimed that it is Moscow’s responsibility to bring an end to the conflict which has cost around 4,800 lives thus far.
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“The solution is very simple – stop supplying weapons … withdraw the troops and close the border. Very simple peace plan. If you want to discuss something different, it means you are not for peace, you are for war,” he said.
The Russian response
For his part Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov called on Kiev to end its assault and enter into negotiations, while also calling for an immediate ceasefire. His claims that there are no Russian troops active on Ukrainian soil have been contradicted by reports of secret military funerals in Russia, and various sightings of Russian military equipment in Ukraine.
The entire situation is a mire of claim and counter-claim, with hard evidence hard to come by. Although some rebels have admitted to receiving Russian assistance, the Ukrainians have not provided evidence that Russian troops number in the thousands.
One worrying trend is the rise in civilian deaths. Rebels have taken to shelling Ukrainian troops from positions close to residential areas, and civilians have been dying when Ukrainian troops inaccurately return fire. Such deaths have been on the rise over the last few days, in the build-up to planned talks between Putin and Poroshenko.
The civilian death toll has been rising due to artillery fire hitting residential areas of Donetsk and other towns in the region. Both sides are using low-accuracy weapons such as Grad rockets, which only adds to the problem. Last week 13 civilians died when the bus they were travelling on was hit by rockets apparently fired from rebel-held territory as it waited at a Ukrainian military checkpoint.
Civilians have also died from supposed Ukrainian attacks, raising anti-Kiev sentiment among the population. It would appear that the population will remain stuck between a rock and a hard place, with both sides reluctant to give much away both on the ground and in negotiations.