Kiev is making the prospect of a peace deal in the east of Ukraine increasingly difficult, Moscow has warned, as Washington urges the Eastern European country to implement a previously agreed deal to bring an end to the conflict.
Addressing senators during a 'government hour' session on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov blasted the neighboring nation as "a lost cause."
According to him, authorities in Kiev are "becoming more and more insolent... with its aggressiveness towards the Minsk agreements, towards Russia, and in its attempts to provoke the West into supporting its militant aspirations."
Speaking earlier the same day during an interview in Latvia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his country remains optimistic that current tensions around Ukraine could be settled by implementing the agreement which was signed in 2014 after a summit in the Belarusian capital.
"The Russians say that they believe the Minsk agreement should be implemented. The Ukrainians say the same thing. Well, I think if that were to happen, that at least would resolve the problem in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine," Washington's envoy claimed.
He argued that the White House will see if Moscow is "serious" about establishing peace in the region, and warned the Kremlin that "there has to be a very clear understanding that if there is further aggression in Ukraine, there will be consequences."
The Kremlin insists it is not a party to the conflict, however, and has urged Kiev to deal with the leaders of the two self-declared breakaway Lugansk and Donetsk republics. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has refused to hold talks, though, insisting the separatists are Russian-backed and calling for negotiations with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin instead.
Lavrov's comments come amid increasing concerns over the situation on the Russian-Ukrainian border. The spokeswoman for Russia's Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, alleged that Kiev was significantly beefing up its military force in the region by "pulling heavy equipment and personnel" into the eastern part of the country.
"According to some reports, the number of troops... in the conflict zone already reaches 125,000 people, and this, if anyone does not know, is half of the entire composition of the Armed Forces of Ukraine," she said on Wednesday.
The Minsk Protocol is a ceasefire agreement, inked in 2014, that sought to end the war in the Donbass. The conflict in the country's east erupted following the events of the 2014 Maidan, with the two regions situated on the Russian border declaring their autonomy from Kiev. Neither Moscow nor Kiev, or any UN state, recognizes them as sovereign nations.