‘Russia to protect E.Ukraine residents if needed’

Moscow, April 9 (IANS) Russia will be protect the residents in eastern Ukraine’s conflict-hit Donbas region if there is a need to do so, Kremlin Deputy Chief of Staff Dmitry Kozak said here.

Such a decision will depend on the scale of violence in the region, Xinhua news agency quoted Kozak as saying on Thursday.

He added that the “armed formations” in Donbas, which comprises the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, are experienced and currently able to defend themselves without external assistance.

He reiterated that Russia does not want to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty or seize its territories.

“It is in our interest to have a friendly, calm and stable neighbouring state,” he said.

Since the beginning of this year, a new round of confrontation in the Donbas region has claimed the lives of 20 Ukrainian servicemen and injured 57 others, according to data released by Kiev.

Besides the escalation of the confict, clashes between the Donbas insurgents and Ukrainian government forces have also intensified despite the ceasefire secured in July last year.

Insurgents have controlled parts of Donbas along the Russian border for almost seven years.

According to UN estimates, the conflict has killed some 14,000 people and left as many as 40,000 wounded.