Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday (4 June) that there were 9,000 Russian servicemen on Ukrainian territory and warned of the threat of a “full-scale invasion” by Russia along the whole joint border.
He was speaking in parliament a day after Ukrainian forces fought their most serious battle for months with Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country, endangering an already shaky ceasefire.
“The military must be ready as much for a renewal of an offensive by the enemy in the Donbass as they are for a full-scale invasion along the whole length of the border with Russia. We must be truly ready for this,” he said.
The European Union warned that a flare-up in fighting in eastern Ukraine could create a “new spiral” of violence on Thursday, and recalled that EU leaders have said they could tighten sanctions on Russia.
Calling clashes on Wednesday near Donetsk the worst violation since an EU-brokered ceasefire took effect in February, a spokeswoman for the EU’s executive Commission told a news briefing: “This renewed intensive fighting is likely to create a new spiral of violence and suffering.”
She called on all sides to respect the Minsk ceasefire agreement and recalled that EU leaders in March had linked future decisions on easing or tightening their sanctions against Moscow to implementation of that deal.
“The leaders have made a very clear link between the restrictive measures and the full implementation of Minsk, but they have also said that they remain if necessary (ready to) take further steps,” she said. “This remains the EU’s position.
On the back of a surge in fighting in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday the ruble plunged spectacularly, losing about 3% of its value against the dollar and the euro and reaching its lowest level for two months.
The Ukrainian crisis has led to unprecedented Western sanctions on the Russian economy and last year’s collapse in oil prices plunged Russia into a monetary crisis at the end of 2014 that has now become a deep recession.
A degree of stabilisation this spring has seen the ruble claw back some value.
But Kyiv’s announcement on Wednesday that the pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east had launched a major offensive against Ukrainian positions and a drop in oil prices saw the currency fall once more.
Nabiullina acknowledged that “outside conditions remain quite unfavourable.”
In connection with a massive attack of militants on Marinka (Donetsk Oblast) with the use of weaponry prohibited by the Minsk agreements, the Ambassador of Ukraine to the EU Kostiantyn Yelisieiev appealed to the leadership of the European Union urging to respond appropriately and give a resolute assessment to the breach of the peace process.
According to the diplomat, since the attack on Debaltseve it is the first time that the Minsk agreements are on the brink of a complete breakdown. The attack on Marinka must be the trigger for the strengthening of sectoral sanctions against Moscow.
In the context of the upcoming G7 Summit (7-8 June), the EU Foreign Affairs Council (June 22) and European Council (25-26 June), Yelisieiev urged the European Union to take immediate steps to support the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, in particular by ramping up the sanctions pressure on Moscow in order to motivate it to fulfil its obligations.
- 7-8 June: G7 Summit, hosted by Germany in Schloss Elmau
- 25-26 June: EU summit