Ukraine's top priority is to build an army strong enough to stop Russian military aggression, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Friday, as the prospect of an expanded war looms on the country's horizon.
The Telegraph reports that Yatseniuk is in "power-sharing talks" with President Petro Poroshenko and others to form a coalition as quickly as possible. Earlier this week, Ukraine's pro-Western leaders and NATO accused Russia of sending soldiers and weapons to help pro-Russian rebels in eastern regions launch a possible new offensive in a war that has killed more than 4,000 people since April--a charge Russia has denied.
"Building an army, which is capable of stopping aggression from Russia, is the number one task," Yatseniuk told journalists.
A Ukrainian military spokesman said fighting between government forces and rebels had continued in the past 24 hours in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Eastern Ukraine, killing a 5 year old girl in its crossfire.
Yet, Poroshenko told security officials there was "no reason to panic" over the situation.
"If events begin to unravel in spite of the peace plan, Ukrainian armed forces today are ready and capable of repelling (an offensive)," Poroshenko said in statement, adding Kiev remained committed to finding a peaceful solution to the crisis.
However, the Russian-backed rebels, who have been fighting Kiev's rule since April when they declared the Donetsk and Luhansk "People's Republics," say they are willing and waiting to fight, preparing to merge Ukraine with Russia to form a "Great Russia."
"If they (Ukraine) move from building up forces as a demonstration, as a threat, to some concrete action, we are ready for this," Alexander Khodakovsky, a senior separatist military figure, told Reuters.
Igor Strelkov, ex-terrorist military leader of the Donetsk People's Republic and a"fighter" for the "Russian World," explained why Russian imperialists view Ukraine and the West with such animosity.
"Ukrainians sold and betrayed their true history, the history of Old Kyiv Russia and repudiated their kinship with Russians in return for Polish fairy tales that Russians are Mongols and Tatars," he told the AP.
"Ukrainians are Russians who lost their minds...The most dramatic thing for Russians is that without Ukraine all existence of the Russian World collapses."
Strelkov also stated that pro-Russian fighters believe the whole Western civilization is leading a war against Russia with the intention to divide and plunder the country because Russia "is capable of becoming a country that will raise a moral counterweight to a world they [US and EU] are building: an utterly apostatic, soulless world, where everything is based on materialistic values, where people have simply forgotten God...we are the only Christian country left in the world."
Dr. Vitalii Usenko, who has worked with the Eastern Ukraine Commission to help restructure the area, says Russia views itself as engaged in a spiritual war as well as a physical one, and warns Western powers to take such threats seriously.
"It seems that Putin and Russians perceive that if Ukraine is in the EU, they lose lose part of their "Russian soul", which in turn they perceive as a disintegration within them," he writes.
"So be sure - Putin is not going to stop. He is planning to control all Ukraine. The conflict in Ukraine is far from over. It is only the beginning as it touches existential and mystical strings in Putin's and Russians' minds. Then after Ukraine the next target will be Eastern Europe to save them from the 'soulless' Western civilization."