Russian President Vladimir Putin is building a "new Berlin Wall" that will trigger a return to the Cold War era, Ukraine's Western-backed prime minister said Wednesday.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk told a government meeting that Moscow's secret service was "exporting terrorism" to eastern Ukraine and orchestrating separatist tensions in the region, the Interfax Ukraine news agency reported. This view of Russian intervention has been backed up by the White House.
He made the comments after rival muscle-flexing displays by Ukrainian and pro-Russia forces on the eve of four-power talks in Geneva.
"Today's events...are starting to endanger Europe and the European Union," Yatsenyuk said. "It is now clear that our Russian neighbors have decided to build a new Berlin Wall and return to the Cold War era."
Eastern Ukraine is heavily influenced by Moscow, with many Russian speakers and a significant proportion of people who identify themselves as ethnic Russians. Ousted President Viktor Yanukovych drew much of his support from the region, and opponents of the new Western-backed administration in Kiev have said it will not represent their interests.
Putin said on Tuesday night that the recent escalation of tensions in the east - with Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists giving public displays of force - has put the country on the brink of civil war, according to a Kremlin statement.
Ukrainian troops drove seven personnel carriers into the town of Kramatorsk Wednesday after securing control of a nearby airfield from the pro-Russian separatists the day before, Reuters reported.
Just 9 miles away in Slovyansk, men in different patterned fatigues drove six personnel carriers, one flying the Russian flag, through the streets, stopping at the pro-Russian-occupied town hall, according to Reuters.
Some of the troops said they were Ukrainian soldiers who had defected to the Russian side, The Associated Press said. The account could not be confirmed by NBC News.
Overhead, a Ukrainian fighter jet made several passes of the region in a show a strength for Kiev.