Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has claimed his country is in a "real war" with Russia and that Ukrainians should prepare for an escalation in fighting.
Speaking to the BBC, President Poroshenko said, "This is not a fight with Russian-backed separatists, this is a real war with Russia.”
His comments came shortly after Ukrainian media showed images of wounded Russian soldiers who were captured during a battle with pro-Russian separatist rebels in the country’s east on Sunday.
The two wounded soldiers, identified as Captain Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Sergeant Aleksander Aleksandrov, were taken to a medical facility in Kiev where they are receiving treatment for the injuries they sustained during the shoot-out with Ukraine’s Aidar volunteer battalion.
President Poroshenko went on the say that the capture of the two Russian operatives is “strong evidence” of Russia’s direct involvement in the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
“I believe they [Russia] are preparing an offensive and I think we should be ready and I think that we do not give them any tiny chance for provocation," Poroshenko said.
From what is known of the soldiers, they were both working as contracted combatants in Ukraine as part of the Russian army’s main intelligence branch.
The capture of the soldiers comes just days after the release of a report published by the Russian opposition claiming at least 220 Russian soldiers were killed in the war in eastern Ukraine in the past year.
The 64-page report, called “Putin.War,” was originally drawn up by assassinated opposition leader Boris Nemtsov before being completed and published by opposition figures led by Ilya Yashin and released on May 12.
Although Russia and Ukraine agreed on a truce earlier this year, the West and Ukraine have frequently accused Russia of deploying soldiers to the region. President Poroshenko last week claimed 83 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed since the Minsk II agreement came into effect in February.
A further four Ukrainian servicemen were killed in fighting near the village of Katerinovka in the Luhansk region after separatists opened fire with mortar and artillery, Luhansk governor Gennady Moskal told the media.
On Tuesday, NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to pull back all troops and heavy weapons from Ukraine as well as to stop supporting the pro-Russian separatists in the region.
Stoltenberg said that he spoke to Lavrov after a meeting in Brussels in Belgium and mentioned that he was concerned over military actions carried out by Russia.
“We also discussed the need for transparency, especially when we have an increased military presence along our borders...for NATO it is important to do whatever we can to avoid that incidents are spiralling out of control,” said Stoltenberg.
Russia has repeatedly denied accusations of sending forces to help the rebels in eastern Ukraine. However, it has admitted that there are Russian nationals fighting Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions alongside separatists.
Over 6,200 people have been killed in the fighting between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists, which started in April 2014 after the separatists gained control of the two regions.