Ukraine's president visits conflict area as tensions rise

President Zelensky

Chancellor Merkel spoke to Mr Putin on the phone on Thursday and called on Russian Federation to "de-escalate tensions" by reducing its troop reinforcements.

'The Chancellor demanded that this build-up be unwound in order to de-escalate the situation, ' Berlin said in a readout of the call.

However Dmitry Kozak, the Kremlin's pointman on relations with Ukraine and the separatists, on Thursday said that Russian Federation could be "forced" to defend its citizens in eastern Ukraine under certain circumstances.

"Russia now has more troops than at any time since 2014", Psaki added, saying that five Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the past week. Ukraine President is visiting the eastern part of the country.

Ukrainian diplomat Leonid Kravchuk said Tuesday that he will never return to the city of Minsk in Belarus for further negotiations, and would quit his post if ordered to do so, because the Belarusian are aligned with Russian Federation and have been "making very ugly and obscene statements regarding Ukraine".

"Thank you for keeping people calm and protecting our land". "You are a true example of heroism and dedication. We remember every warrior who died defending our state". Both sides accuse each other of provocations and regularly exchange fire, with the casualties mounting among both military personnel and civilians.

In retaliation for Kiev's recent crackdown on pro-Russian media and politicians, Moscow is staging a large-scale and ostentatious military buildup along the Ukrainian border.

Kozak was asked if Russian Federation would protect its citizens in eastern Ukraine.

Peace talks mediated by France and Germany since 2015 have failed to end the fighting.

But the deputy head of Russia's presidential administration, Dmitry Kozak, continued the Kremlin's tough rhetoric today, as he warned: 'The start of military action - this would be the beginning of the end of Ukraine'.

According to the US State Department, NATO's door will always be open to countries reaching the bar, but Ukraine is not yet ready. Two more Ukrainian soldiers were killed this week in clashes with the Russia-supported Donbass separatists.

Russian Federation has said its military movements near its border with Ukraine are defensive and pose no threat.

Zelensky this week urged North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to speed up his country's request for membership in the alliance, saying this was the only way to end the conflict.

Alliance members responded with calls for Kiev to continue military and defence reforms. He has in recent days appealed to his country's Western allies for support.

A spokesman for US President Biden said that the Ukrainians have long wanted to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and that the US government is also talking to them about this.