Setting the stage for a NATO summit dominated by the worst East-West tensions in decades, President Barack Obama will go to Estonia this week with a simple message for Vladimir Putin -- don`t mess with NATO`s ex-Soviet members.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Sunday for immediate talks on the "statehood" of southern and eastern Ukraine, although his spokesman said this did not mean Moscow now endorsed rebel calls for independence for territory they have seized.
After months of hesitation, the EU on Saturday agreed to impose economic sanctions against Russia, hoping this "strong warning" would make it change course in Ukraine as fighting intensified around cities held by pro-Russian rebels.
President Vladimir Putin said on Friday Russia's armed forces, backed by its nuclear arsenal, were ready to meet any aggression, declaring at a pro-Kremlin youth camp that foreign states should understand: "It's best not to mess with us."
Blaming Russia for the escalating violence in eastern Ukraine, US President Barack Obama has said that Moscow was deliberately and repeatedly violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
East Ukrainian pro-Russian separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko said serving Russian soldiers, on leave from their posts, are fighting Ukrainian troops alongside the rebels, Russian state television reported.
Reports of funerals of Russian paratroopers need to be checked, President Vladimir Putin`s spokesman said late Wednesday as media speculation mounted over whether the men were killed in action in Ukraine.