KIEV - 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-Moscow separatists. "Direct and open aggression has been launched against Ukraine from a neighboring state," Poroshenko said in a speech at a military academy in Kiev. "This has changed the situation in the zone of conflict in a radical way." Government forces have suffered major losses in battles against the pro-Russia rebels in the past week. A top United Nations human rights official said last week that the total death toll in the five-month conflict - including civilians, Ukrainian forces and separatists - was nearly 2,600.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Sunday for immediate talks on the "statehood" of southern and eastern Ukraine, although his spokesman said this did not mean Moscow now endorsed rebel calls for independence for territory they have seized. Putin later said he hoped "common sense" would prevail in the West over the possibility of imposing additional sanctions, Russian news agency Interfax reported on Monday.
First published September 1 2014, 2:30 AM