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Stark warnings and coded language. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, flanked by his Kazakh and Belorussian counterparts has weighed into the diplomatic arguments on Ukraine.

His was a gloomy assesment of the future and he appealed to Kyiv.

“Ukraine is on the brink of civil war. It is scary. I hope that everyone who is responsible for making decisions at the moment, the current Ukrainian authorities have enough brains to avoid driving the country into such a state and to prevent an escalation of the conflict,” he told reporters.

The diplomatic theme from NATO on Tuesday was similar, ending a conflict which could spiral. But it pointed to Russia with a direct appeal to Moscow.

“I call on Russia to de-escalate the crisis, to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s borders, to stop de-stabilising the situation in Ukraine and make clear it doesn’t support the violent action of pro-Russian separatists,” said Nato General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

A phone call from President Barack Obama to his Russian counterpart was followed by a second on Tuesday from Ban Ki-moon to Vladimir Putin. The UN chief spoke of his alarm at the volatile situation in eastern Ukraine and the need for everyone to work together.

From Estonia which shares a border with Russia US Senator John McCain said he believed Ukraine should receive military assistance from the West adding that Kyiv’s military was poorly equipped to deal with any threat from Russian troops on the Ukrainian frontier.

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