UKRAINE CONFLICT: Russia wants a new state in Eastern Ukraine?

SEPTEMBER 1, 2014

Russian President, Vladimir Putin, on Sunday sparked speculation that he is seeking to create a pro-Russian statelet when he reportedly used a term "Novorossiya", or New Russia. This comes when Russian and Ukrainian delegates are scheduled to meet in Minsk, the capital of Belarus which borders both countries, on Monday under the so-called Contact Group on Ukraine.

Putin raised the stakes calling for the issue of statehood to be discussed for eastern Ukraine.

His remarks came only hours after the European Union gave Russia - which the economic bloc accuses of direct involvement in the Ukraine conflict, a week to change course or face new sanctions.

"We need to immediately begin substantive talks ... on questions of the political organisation of society and statehood in south-eastern Ukraine," Putin was quoted by Russian news media as having said.

Russia previously only called for "federalisation" or granting greater rights to the eastern regions of Ukraine, where predominantly Russian-speakers live.

However, Putin had sparked speculation about a pro-Russian statelet when he began to employ the loaded tsarist-era term "Novorossiya", or New Russia, to refer to several regions in southeast Ukraine.

Still, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Putin was not talking about the "Novorossiya's" independence from Ukraine, but rather "inclusive talks".

"Only Ukraine can agree with Novorossiya," he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile Ukraine warned that it was on the brink of "full-scale war" with Russia over the crisis in its east, which might end up dragging the rest of Europe.

Ukraine says the invigorated rebel push of the past days has included substantial numbers of Russian regular army contingents, which are now concentrating their forces in major towns.

"Terrorists and Russian soldiers continue to concentrate personnel and equipment in regional centres," said security spokesman Andriy Lysenko.

NATO will hold talks in Britain from Thursday at which the Ukraine crisis is expected to top the agenda. NATO last week accused Russia of sending at least 1 000 troops across the border to fight alongside the rebels, along with artillery, tanks and armoured vehicles.

Russia denies this – although there have been media reports of secret military funerals for those sent to fight in Ukraine.

Photo caption: NEW STATE? Russian President, Vladimir Putin, on Sunday sparked speculation that he is seeking to create a pro-Russian statelet when he reportedly used a term "Novorossiya", or New Russia. Photo courtesy of the Times of Israel.