Russia says it may be forced to protect its citizens in eastern Ukraine

A senior Kremlin spokesman said Thursday that under certain circumstances Russia could be forced to defend its citizens in eastern Ukraine, and that major military action could mean the beginning of the end of Ukraine as a country, TASS reported.

Western countries have called for restraint after Ukraine raised the alarm over a gathering of Russian forces near Ukraine’s border with Russia. Violence has escalated through clashes between government forces and separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

“… I support the assessment that … the beginning of hostilities would be the beginning of the end of Ukraine,” Dmitry Kozak, deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, was quoted as saying.

  Russia has said it has begun withdrawing troops from Crimea after the exercise

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

Referring to his response, where Bosnian Serb forces killed about 8,000 Muslim men and boys during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, he said: “It all depends on the scale of the fire. We will probably have to defend them.”

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

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