Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed the West for the Ukraine conflictReuters

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has said the Ukraine conflict was caused by Western countries and not Moscow.

Western countries had reneged on a pledge not to expand Nato eastwards and pushed countries to choose between Russia and the West, Putin told an Egyptian newspaper on Monday (9 February).

Putin has recently re-entered talks with European leaders, who have sought to revive the defunct Minsk peace deal agreed in September 2014.

The ceasefire was never fully respected and violence in eastern Ukraine has escalated dramatically since the start of the year.

More than 5,300 people have been killed in the conflict since April 2014, according to United Nations figures.

The United States and the European Union have accused Russia of fuelling the conflict in eastern Ukraine by providing weapons and fighters to the pro-Russian separatist cause.

US President Barack Obama has come under increasing domestic pressure to send lethal aid to Ukraine's government.

Prominent foreign policy specialists in the Republican party have argued that Kiev needs military support against rebels being supplied by Moscow.

The US and EU have sought maintain a united front over the Ukraine crisis, although some analysts have argued that the allies differ on the question of whether to provide arms to Kiev.