Violence in eastern Ukraine is intensifying and Russian-backed rebels have moved heavy weaponry back to the front line, international monitors warned on Saturday (13 February) as Moscow responded by accusing the West of dragging the world back 50 years.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev described East-West relations as having “fallen into a new Cold War” and said NATO was “hostile and closed” towards Russia, in the latest sign that peace efforts have made scant progress almost two years since Moscow annexed Crimea.
“I sometimes wonder – are we in 2016 or 1962?,” Medvedev asked in a speech to the Munich Security Conference.
Implementation of a deal agreed in Minsk a year ago, which would allow for the lifting of sanctions on Russia, and a lull in violence late last year raised hopes that the conflict that has killed more than 9,000 people could be resolved quickly.
But Lamberto Zannier, who heads the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring eastern Ukraine, said the situation had “become difficult again.”
“We see a multiplication of incidents, violations of the ceasefire,” he told Reuters at the Munich Security Conference. “We’ve seen cases of redeployment of heavy armaments closer to the contact line … and multiple rocket launchers, artillery being used,” he said, referring to the heavy weaponry that is meant to be removed under the Minsk deal.
Medvedev accused Kyiv of trying to shift the blame onto Moscow for the continued shelling in the industrial regions of eastern Ukraine now under rebel control.
“The Minsk agreements have to be observed by everyone. But we believe that it’s first and foremost up to the Kyiv authorities to do that,” he said.
The West says it has satellite images, videos and other evidence to show Russia is providing weapons to the rebels and that Moscow has troops engaged in the conflict that erupted following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014.
Russia denies such accusations.
NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove said Russia had the power to “dial up and down” the conflict as it wished to put pressure on the government in Kyiv but he said NATO did not want, nor currently see, a new Cold War.