Russian President Vladimir Putin increased the rhetoric over Ukraine, saying he could capture Kiev within two weeks if he wanted to do so, the Italian newspaper Le Repubblica reported. The remarks came after Putin proposed statehood for eastern Ukraine.
"If I want, I could take Kiev in two weeks," Putin allegedly said. He reportedly made the boast in a phone call to outgoing European Commission President Manuel Barroso, who told other European leaders about it at the EU summit in Brussels Saturday.
The remark came as European leaders considered imposing more sanctions against Russia for its role in ongoing strife in Ukraine where pro-Russian separatists have been fighting government forces. Russian officials pressed for a cease-fire Monday following warnings from Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey that a great war "the likes of which Europe has not seen since the Second World War" is coming, the Washington Post reported.
Ukrainian troops retreated from the airport in Luhansk as separatists, backed by Russian tanks and troops, advanced, the BBC reported. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied Russian forces are involved in the Ukraine fighting calling reports of sightings "imaginary," RIA Novosti reported.
“Let’s sit down and talk, not threaten sanctions,” Lavrov said in an address to university students in Moscow on Monday.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen Monday announced the alliance would be beefing up forces in Eastern Europe to counter Russian aggression.