Kremlin says it fears Ukraine could restart conflict in war-torn east

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin said on Wednesday it was concerned by mounting tensions in war-torn eastern Ukraine and that it feared Kyiv’s government forces could do something to restart a conflict with pro-Russian separatists.

The comments came a day after Ukraine’s commander-in-chief accused Russia of a military buildup near their shared border and said that the pro-Moscow separatists were systematically violating a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.

Kyiv and Moscow have blamed each other for a recent spate of violence in the region. Around 14,000 people have been killed in the conflict since it first erupted in 2014, Ukraine says.

“We express concern over the growing tension and express concern that one way or another the Ukrainian side could take provocative actions that would lead to war. We really don’t want to see that,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“I mean a civil war, which there already was there,” Peskov said, when asked to clarify on a conference call with reporters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin late on Tuesday accused Ukraine of provoking armed confrontation with the separatists and of failing to honour agreements over the region.

Speaking during a video conference with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin also urged Kyiv to enter into direct dialogue with local separatist forces, the Kremlin said late on Tuesday.

“The Russian side expressed serious concern over the escalation of armed confrontation that is being provoked by Ukraine along the line of contact and its effective refusal to implement the agreements of July 2020 ... to strengthen the ceasefire regime,” the Kremlin said.

Germany, Russia and France are part of the so-called “Normandy format” that also includes Ukraine and that was set up in 2014 to try to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Dmitry Antonov; editing by Shri Navaratnam and Gareth Jones