Russia says Ukraine's law calling it an 'aggressor' is preparation for a 'new war'

Nearly four years after conflict broke out, tensions between Russia and Ukraine remain fraught: Getty

The Russian foreign ministry sees Ukraine's efforts to denounce Moscow as an "aggressor country" as evidence that it is preparing for a "new war", according to Russian media.

Earlier on Thursday, Ukraine's parliament passed a bill that described the eastern territories of Donetsk and Luhansk as "temporarily occupied", and pledged to reintegrate them back under Kiev's control.

President Petro Poroshenko welcomed the new bill saying that it would help restore control of the east by "political and diplomatic means".

The conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted in the weeks after Russia annexed Crimea in April 2014 and has seen more than 10,000 people killed.

The Minsk peace deal was introduced in 2015 to put a stop to the hostilities and end the conflict, but clashes have continued and attempts at a political settlement have stalled.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has now warned however that Ukraine's passing of the bill effectively puts an end to the Minsk agreement.

And the bill itself contains no reference to the 2015 peace deal, brokered by France and Germany, that obliged Ukraine to pass legislation offering a broad autonomy to the separatist regions and a sweeping amnesty to the rebels.

"We can't make diplomatic and political agreements that are prone to change part of Ukraine's legislation," Ivan Vinnyk, a member of Poroshenko's faction in parliament, said while explaining why the Minsk deal wasn't mentioned.

Konstantin Kosachev, the head of foreign affairs committee in the Russian parliament's upper house, said the new bill effectively spikes the Minsk peace pact, the implementation of which the US and the European Union have said was a condition for lifting sanctions against Russia.

"Kiev has gone from sabotaging the Minsk agreements to burying them," he said.

The bill backs a ban on trade and a transport blockade of the east that Ukraine introduced last year. Of all the documents issued by separatist authorities, Ukraine would only recognise birth and death certificates.

Alexander Zakharchenko, the chief rebel leader in the Donetsk region, criticised the new bill as a flagrant violation of the Minsk agreement signed by Ukraine and the rebels, saying it would encourage hawkish elements in Ukraine and fuel hostilities.

Volodymyr Fesenko, head of the Penta research centre, an independent Kiev-based think-tank, said the main purpose of the bill is to defend Ukraine's interests in international courts.

Alexei Pushkov, a senior member of the upper house of Russian parliament, noted Ukraine's reluctance to sever diplomatic relations with Russia despite calling it an aggressor.

"It's a paradox to have diplomatic ties with aggressor," he said.