US Vice President Joe Biden has called Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to discuss the ongoing conflict in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which joined Russia two years ago.
“The Vice President relayed that the United States had sent a message to Russia that the world is watching and underscored the need to de-escalate the situation. He also urged Ukraine to show restraint,” the White House said in a statement on Friday.
Crimea declared independence from Ukraine on March 17, 2014, and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum in which 96.8 percent of participants voted in favor of the secession.
Tensions between Moscow and Kiev flared this week after Russia’s Federal Security Service said on Wednesday that it had thwarted an incursion by the Ukrainian military into Crimea over the weekend, in which two Russians were killed.
Ukrainian officials, however, denied the allegations and accused Russia of creating an excuse for further “intervention.”
Earlier this month, Poroshenko ordered all Ukrainian army units near Crimea and in the eastern Donbass region to stand at the highest level of combat readiness.
The Ukrainian government has also been engaged in a crackdown on the Russian-speaking people in Donbass, who later took up arms to defend themselves.
Following the surge in tensions, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Crimea on Friday and said during a security meeting that Moscow would discuss measures to boost security in the peninsula.
He also said that Russia would not sever diplomatic relations with Ukraine, despite the recent developments.
This was Putin’s fifth visit to Crimea since the referendum was held.
The crisis in eastern Ukraine has left nearly 9,500 people dead and over 21,000 others injured since it started in April 2014, according to the United Nations.