Russia says it could be forced to protect its citizens in east Ukraine: TASS

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A senior Kremlin official said on Thursday Russia could under certain circumstance be forced to defend its citizens in eastern Ukraine and that major military hostilities could mark the beginning of the end of Ukraine as a country, TASS news agency reported.

Western nations have called for restraint after Ukraine raised the alarm over a buildup of Russian forces near the Ukrainian border with Russia. Violence has risen along the line of contact between government forces and separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region.

“…I support the assessment that … the start of military action – this would be the beginning of the end of Ukraine,” the deputy head of Russia’s presidential administration, Dmitry Kozak, was quoted as saying.

Kozak was asked if Russia would protect its citizens in eastern Ukraine.

Referring in his reply to Srebrenica, where about 8 000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces during Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war, he said: “It all depends on the scale of the fire. If there is, as our president says, Srebrenica, apparently we will have to step in to defend (them).”

During a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin accused Kyiv of provocative action in eastern Ukraine which he said was inflaming the situation there.