Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said Russia would take a “tough position” on Ukraine if the country defaults on the $3 billion debt owed to Moscow which was taken out by Kiev’s previous government in 2013.
Speaking in an interview on Russian television channel, Rossiya, on Saturday, Prime Minister Medvedev called a new law in Ukraine allowing the country to suspend foreign debt repayments "contradictory."
"Probably they are talking about private debts, but at the same time they are hinting that they aren't prepared to pay off the debts of the (former Ukrainian president Viktor) Yanukovich government," Medvedev said.
"If it is actually formulated in this way this would undoubtedly be a default of Ukraine ... We would adopt as tough a position as possible in this case and defend our national interests."
Vowing to collect the debts, the Russian premier added, "Banks will use all instruments that exist, including, naturally, judicial procedures."
Russia and Ukraine have been at loggerheads ever since months of pro-EU demonstrations in Kiev forced former pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych to flee the country in February 2014.
The political crisis led the autonomous government in Crimea, which is dominated by ethnic Russians, to declare independence from Ukraine and eventually be annexed by Russia following a referendum a month later.
Over 6,000 people have died in the fighting between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian government since the rebels began their insurgency last year.
The Minsk 2 agreement, which was signed between the Ukrainian government and rebel leaders in the Belarusian capital on Feb. 15, secured a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine in order to allow vital humanitarian aid to reach thousands of civilians who have been cut off from social subsidies due to the conflict.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claimed his country is in a "real war" with Russia after two wounded Russian soldiers were captured during a battle with rebels in the country’s east on Sunday.
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.
Despite the claims, Russia insists it is not sending troops to fight in eastern Ukraine and that Russians who have gone to fight in the conflict have done so as volunteers.
President Poroshenko last week also claimed 83 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed since the Minsk II agreement came into effect.
Earlier this week, Luhansk governor Gennady Moskal said that a further four Ukrainian servicemen were killed when separatists opened fire on government forces with mortar and artillery near the village of Kalinovka.
According to Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko, another Ukrainian serviceman was killed and five were wounded in clashes on Saturday.
Separatists, meanwhile, accused the Ukrainian government of breaching the Minsk 2 deal by bringing heavy weapons close to the frontline.
This "clearly indicates Kiev's unwillingness to observe its commitments to the Minsk agreements and also that it's stepping up preparations for military action," senior rebel commander Eduard Basurin was quoted by rebel press service DAN.