Pro-Russian rebels prepare for an assault on Ukrainian army positions.
Pro-Russian rebels prepare for an assault on Ukrainian army positions in Donetsk airport, eastern Ukraine, August 31, 2014. Photo by AP
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REUTERS, AP - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia on Monday of launching "direct and open aggression" which he said had radically changed the balance on the battlefield against Kiev in its fight against pro-Russian separatists.

"Direct and open aggression has been launched against Ukraine from a neighboring state. This has changed the situation in the zone of conflict in a radical way," he said in a speech at a military academy in Kiev.

Following events last week in Ukraine, when government forces suffered major reverses against the rebels, there would be high-level personnel changes in the Ukrainian armed forces, he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday he hoped "common sense" would prevail in the West over the possibility of imposing additional sanctions, Russian news agency Interfax reported on Monday.

"I hope that common sense will prevail and we will work in a normal modern way, and that neither we nor our partners will bear the costs of these mutual jabs," the agency reported him as saying.

European Union leaders agreed on Saturday to ask the European Commission to draw up more measures against Moscow, which could be adopted in coming days, after accusations that Russia was sending troops into Ukrainian territory.

With a new round of talks on easing the crisis in Ukraine about to start, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday called on the participants to push for a cease-fire between Ukrainian government troops and separatist forces.

The talks between the so-called contact group are being held Monday in Minsk, the Belarusian capital.

Speaking to students at Moscow State Institute of International Relation, Lavrov said the priority of the talks should be reaching agreement on an immediate unconditional cease-fire.

A representative of the Russia-backed separatists, Andrei Purgin, told the Interfax news agency that their priority was to win recognition of their independence in eastern Ukraine, which has a large Russian-speaking population. He said they also were willing to discuss the exchange of prisoners and a temporary cease-fire.