SEVASTOPOL, Crimea (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday blamed the Ukrainian government for the latest upsurge in fighting between Kiev forces and Russia-backed rebels in east Ukraine.
After taking a dive in an underwater submersible in Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula Moscow annexed from Kiev last year, Putin told reporters:
"Regrettably, we are now seeing this conflict escalation and the blame lies not with the Donbas militia but with the rival side," he said, referring to the rebel-held Ukrainian region.
"I hope there won't be full-scale direct clashes."
(Reporting by Denis Dyomkin; writing by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by Polina Devitt)