© Sputnik
A window broken by a recent shelling is pictured in the village of Vesyoloye (Vesele) in the Donetsk Region, self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Eastern Ukraine.
A return to fierce fighting in Eastern Ukraine would amount to a crisis on Russia's doorstep, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman has said, arguing that Moscow could be forced to intervene to prevent such a situation worsening.

Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday that there had been a series of worrying escalations in recent days between Kiev's forces and separatist militants in the Donbass. "The situation on the contact line in Ukraine is extremely unstable," he said. "The dynamics of the development of this state of affairs, and the behavior of the Ukrainian side, creates the danger of a resumption of full-scale hostilities."

The Kremlin spokesman added that such an outbreak would pose a threat to the security of Russia, and that it would contemplate taking steps to prevent this, "in the event hostilities resume." If this were to happen, Peskov said, "no country in the world would stand aside. And all countries, including Russia, would take measures to prevent such tragedies from happening again."

The official also echoed claims from Putin that there was the potential for a "human catastrophe, similar to Srebrenica." The massacre is widely regarded as one of the bloodiest episodes in the post-war period, coming at the height of the Bosnian War, amid the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Pressed on the comparison, he said there were similarities "on the basis of the uncontrolled actions of various units of the armed forces of Ukraine, on the basis of the dominance of nationalist sentiments, and on the basis of inciting absolute hatred towards the population of the self-proclaimed Republics of Donbass."

On Thursday, the Russian president's Deputy Chief of Staff, Dmitry Kozak, said Russia would be forced to protect the residents of the Donbass region if Kiev were to launch an all-out offensive on the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk republics. "Everything depends on what the scale of fighting will be. If there is, as the president says, a Srebrenica, we will be forced to stand up for ourselves," he said.

American and Russian diplomats held emergency talks earlier this week in an attempt to head off conflict in the region. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told reporters on Tuesday, "We have had contact with the US administration on the situation in the Donbass, and we have exhaustively explained to their side what is happening." He added that rhetoric from Western nations over Ukraine has been fueling tensions, and that "Washington should be concerned about the consequences of this coordinated policy."

At the same time, US State Department spokesman Ned Price warned that Washington had seen "credible" reports of Russia amassing troops near the shared border and issued a "call on Russia to refrain from escalatory actions."

However, Peskov has denied that armed forces deployment is a precursor to war, saying that it should not cause "the slightest concern" for any neighboring nations, given "Russia does not pose a threat to any country in the world," including Ukraine.

Instead, he claimed that it was simply a response to "increased activity of the armed forces of NATO countries, other associations, and individual countries."

US warships set sail for Black Sea amid stand-off with Russia over military conflict in Eastern Ukraine, Turkish diplomats report

USS Donald Cook
© Reuters / Yoruk Isik
FILE PHOTO. The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) sets sail in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Black Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey December 2, 2020.
On Friday, a source at the Turkish foreign ministry told TASS that it had received a notification from Washington that two US warships would pass through the Bosporus straits and into the Black Sea. Under international law, Ankara controls access to the inland body of water for certain types of vessels, including navy ships.

In accordance with these conventions, Turkish envoys say they "were notified through diplomatic channels 15 days ago that two US warships would enter the Black Sea. The ships will remain there until 4 May," the unnamed official said. The journey will take the crews almost 9,000 miles from the eastern seaboard of America, near to coastal Ukraine and Russia, including the sensitive and disputed Crimean peninsula.

Since then, the vessels have been named by Istanbul-based news network NTV as the USS Roosevelt, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, and the USS Donald Cook, a guided missile destroyer that was previously intercepted by Russian jets off the coast of Kaliningrad, in the Baltic Sea.

The maneuver comes amid an escalating military conflict in the East of Ukraine between Kiev's army and separatist forces in the Donbass, who are backed by Moscow. The Kremlin has described the situation as "frightening," and has held talks this week with counterparts in Washington to "explain" the situation.

The US, however, has highlighted "credible" reports of Russian troops massing on the borders with Ukraine, and State Department spokesman Ned Price issued a "call on Russia to refrain from escalatory actions."

On Friday, Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that "the situation on the contact line in Ukraine is extremely unstable," he said. "The dynamics of the development of this state of affairs, and the behavior of the Ukrainian side, creates the danger of a resumption of full-scale hostilities."

In February, Russia warned that US naval exercises in the Black Sea were jeopardizing the stability of the region and could lead to disaster. In response to a group of American warships announcing the drills, Moscow's embassy in Washington said that "it looks like the US 6th fleet can't wait to find an enemy in the Black Sea. It is desperately looking for a pretext - now openly under the banner of warfare exercises - for ramping up presence in the region."