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Putin: Nato powers 'building a new Berlin Wall'

Vladimir Putin arriving at the annual address. Credit: Reuters

Vladimir Putin has accused Nato countries of "building a new Berlin wall" and blamed other nations for the current situation in eastern Ukraine.

The Russian President said Moscow was ready to mediate in the crisis in a bid to resolve it politically, rather than militarily.

When asked by a Ukrainian journalist how many Russian soldiers had been sent into the region, Putin denied sending any - claiming any that went did so of their own volition.

He also said the current economic crisis in Russia was not a penalty for its involvement in Crimea, claiming sanctions were an attempt to turn Russia from a bear with "claws" into a stuffed animal.


US to increase non-lethal military help to Ukraine

America will increase non-lethal military assistance to Ukraine but will not provide weapons. Credit: Jan A. Nicolas/DPA/Press Association Images

The United States plans to increase non-lethal military assistance to Ukraine, including deliveries of the first Humvee vehicles, having decided for now not to provide weapons, U.S. officials said.

The increase in non-lethal aid to Ukraine, which is dealing with a Russian-backed separatist movement in the east of the country, is expected to be announced on Thursday during a visit to Kiev by Vice President Joe Biden.

The aid falls short of what Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko requested during a visit to Washington in September when he appealed for lethal aid.

UK boosts international monitoring presence in Ukraine

Britain will send equipment and vehicles to bolster the international monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine. Credit: REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Britain is to send 10 armoured vehicles to bolster the international monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine amid renewed tensions between the pro-Russia separatist rebels and the government in Kiev.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the vehicles - worth £1.2 million together with associated communications equipment - would enable the monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to operate safely in volatile parts of the country.

At the same time Britain is expanding its contribution to the OSCE mission staff, with eight additional monitors arriving last week, and three more due to join them at the end of the month.

Mr Hammond said: "The UK stands squarely behind the Ukrainian people and government as they defend their nation's independence and work to make the political, economic and governance reforms that are vital to rebuilding the country."

Russia's actions in Ukraine 'could draw more sanctions'

Russia's actions in eastern Ukraine are unacceptable and could draw greater sanctions from the US and the European Union, David Cameron has warned.

"I still hope that the Russians see some sense and recognise that they should allow Ukraine to develop as an independent and free country, free to make its choices," Cameron told a news conference in the Australian capital Canberra.

Smoke rises in Donetsk during fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces. Credit: REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev

"If Russia takes a positive approach towards the Ukraine's freedom and responsibility we could see those sanctions removed," the Prime Minister continued.

"If Russia continues to make matters worse then we could see those sanctions increased, its as simple as that".


Ukraine ceasefire 'has been broken 2,400 times'

April 2014: A fighter jet flies above as Ukrainian soldiers sit on an armoured personnel carrier in Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine. Credit: Reuters

The apparent ceasefire between separatists and government forces in eastern Ukraine is all but non-existent, according to the European organisation monitoring the crisis

An Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe told Austrian newspaper Die Presse that the ceasefire and been violated on at least 2,400 occasions.

Since the Minsk agreement...we have more than 2,400 breaches of the cease-fire by militant groups. More than 100 Ukrainian soldiers and dozens of civilians have been killed.

– OCSE spokesman Ihor Prokopchuk

EU 'unlikely' to step up sanctions against Russia

EU foreign ministers are unlikely to step up sanctions against Russia when they meet next Monday, despite disputed reports of Russian troops entering eastern Ukraine over the past two days.

One EU diplomat told Reuters today: "The council (of foreign ministers) will not go for further sanctions despite turmoil and elections."

Another EU diplomat told the news agency: "The existing sanctions are painful for Russia, and they are likely to be sharpened only if the EU has no other choice. We are not there yet, although at some point we might be."

Ukraine's defence minister prepares for possible attack

Ukrainian forces are preparing for a possible new attack from pro-Russian separatists following reports of Russian tanks and troops crossing into eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine's Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak told a government meeting rebels had received reinforcements despite a ceasefire being agreed in September, Reuters reports.

Ukraine's Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak Credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Mykola Lazarenko/Handout via Reuters

He said: "We are repositioning our armed forces to respond to the actions of the (rebel) fighters, I see my main task is to prepare for military action."

Russia has denied claims by Nato and the Ukraine government that it has sent military units into the country.

Russia denies sending troops into Ukraine

An armed security representing the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic stands guard near a cross erected by local residents in memory of victims of the MH17 airliner disaster. Credit: Reuters

Moscow has denied claims by Nato and the Ukraine government that it has sent military units into the country.

The denial from Russian's defence ministry comes as Nato's top military commander, US. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, appears to support claims from Kiev about a Russian military operation underway in the east of Ukraine.

We have seen columns of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defence systems and Russian combat troops entering into Ukraine.

– US General Philip Breedlove

Earlier today, Reuters reported that Ukrainian government forces are redeploying in preparation for a possible new offensive by pro-Russian separatists in eastern regions and that columns of Russian tanks had crossed the border overnight.

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