Have the stakes been raised in the Ukraine crisis? During an interview yesterday, Vladimir Putin said "statehood" for eastern regions controlled by pro-Russia separatists needs to be discussed, the Washington Post reports. A spokesman for the Russian president later claimed he "was talking about inclusive talks" instead of independence for the region. Separatists have proclaimed independent states in Luhansk and Donetsk, but Moscow hasn't granted their pleas for recognition and annexation, the New York Times notes. On Saturday, the chief of the European Commission warned that Russian involvement had brought the situation close to "the point of no return." In other developments:
- The conflict shifted to the sea for the first time last night, with a Ukrainian patrol boat brought down in the Sea of Azov by artillery fire, reports Reuters. Two seamen are missing and eight others are injured.
- The Ukrainian military says hundreds of troops are trapped near Donetsk, while "paratroopers are fighting a tank battalion of the Russian armed forces to hold the airport" in Luhansk.
- In yesterday's interview, Putin warned that winter is coming, and Ukraine should "stop hostilities" in time to replenish its gas reserves, which come from Russia.
- A new round of crisis talks is set to take place in Belarus today, reports the AP. Russia's foreign minister says the goal should be an immediate ceasefire, while a rebel spokesman says they will seek a prisoner exchange and recognition of independence in eastern Ukraine.
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