Ukraine: separatists want blood
As the deadline for Ukraine's ultimatum to pro-Russian forces approached the country's ambassador to the UN said the separatists would be responsible for violence.PT1M54S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-36mvs 620 349 April 14, 2014
As the deadline passed, a Reuters reporter in the city of Slaviansk, where armed men had seized two government buildings, said there was no outward sign the rebels were complying with the ultimatum.
Angered by the death of a state security officer and the wounding of two comrades near Slaviansk, acting Ukrainian President Oleksander Turchynov warned rebels on Sunday that a full-scale security operation, including the army, would be unleashed unless they met the deadline.
Time running out: Armed Pro-Russian supporters carry an Eastern Orthodox icon of Mary Magdalene outside the secret service building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk on April 13, 2014. Photo: AFP
Mr Turchynov and other leaders blame Russia, which annexed Ukraine's Crimea region when Moscow-backed former president Viktor Yanukovych fled after months of pro-Western protests, for inspiring and organising a rash of rebellions in Slaviansk and other Russian-speaking towns in eastern Ukraine.
"We will not allow Russia to repeat the Crimean scenario in the eastern regions of Ukraine," Mr Turchynov said.
The United Nations Security Council held an emergency session on Sunday night to discuss the escalating crisis at Russia's request, after Moscow called Kiev's plans to mobilise the army to put down a rebellion by pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine "criminal".
Vitaly Churkin, the Russian Federation'?s ambassador to the United Nations, speaks during an UN Security Council emergency meeting called at Russia's request to discuss the growing crisis in Ukraine. Photo: AP
Britain's UN ambassador said Russia had massed tens of thousands of well-equipped troops near the Ukrainian border in addition to the 25,000 troops it recently moved into Crimea, which Moscow seized last month.
"Satellite images show that there are between 35,000 and 40,000 Russian troops in the vicinity of the border with Ukraine equipped with combat aircraft, tanks, artillery and logistical support units," British ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said.
"This is in addition to the 25,000 Russia troops based illegally in Crimea," Mr Lyall Grant added in his speech during the UN emergency meeting.
The head of Ukraine's state security service (SBU) said government forces would respond ruthlessly if pro-Russian separatists opened fire.
"If they open fire, we will annihilate them. There should be no doubt about this," Valentyn Nalyvaichenko said in a televised interview.
Russia's Foreign Ministry called the planned military operation a "criminal order" and said the West should bring its allies in Ukraine's government under control.
"It is now the West's responsibility to prevent civil war in Ukraine," the ministry said in a statement.
The 15-nation council has held numerous emergency meetings on Ukraine but has been incapable of taking any concrete action because of Russia's sharp disagreements with the United States and Europe.
Earlier, the US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said on ABC's This Week that the United States was prepared to step up sanctions against Moscow if pro-Russian military actions in eastern Ukraine continued.
"The president has made clear that, depending on Russian behaviour, sectoral sanctions in energy, banking, mining could be on the table, and there's a lot in between," she added.
Ukraine has repeatedly said the rebellions are inspired and directed by the Kremlin. But action to dislodge the armed militants risks tipping the stand-off into a new, dangerous phase as Moscow has warned it will protect the region's Russian-speakers if they come under attack.
One Ukrainian state security officer was killed and five were wounded on the government side in Sunday's operation in Slaviansk, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said. "There were dead and wounded on both sides," he wrote on his Facebook page.
The separatists are holed up in the local headquarters of the police and of the state security service, while others have erected road blocks around Slaviansk, about 150 kilometres from the Russian border.
Kiev accuses the Kremlin of trying to undermine the legitimacy of presidential elections on May 25 that aim to set Ukraine back on a normal path after months of turmoil.
However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Kiev was "demonstrating its inability to take responsibility for the fate of the country" and warned that any use of force against Russian speakers "would undermine the potential for cooperation", including talks due to be held on Thursday between Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union.
In Washington, the US State Department said pro-Russian militants seizing government buildings in six cities in eastern Ukraine on Saturday was an orchestrated operation reminiscent of those conducted in Crimea before it was annexed by Russia.
"Many of the militants were outfitted in bullet-proof vests and camouflage uniforms with insignia removed and carrying Russian-origin weapons," it said in a note entitled "Evidence of Russian Support for Destabilisation of Ukraine".
"These operations bear many similarities to those that were carried out in Crimea in late February and culminated in Russia's illegal military intervention and purported annexation of Crimea," the State Department note said.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also expressed concern about similarities in the appearance of some rebels to that of the Russian troops who seized control in Crimea.
Calling on Russia to pull back its large number of troops, including special forces, from the area around Ukraine's border, he said in a statement: "Any further Russian military interference, under any pretext, will only deepen Russia's international isolation."
NATO has effectively ruled out military action over Ukraine, which lies outside the Western alliance. However, Washington and NATO leaders have made clear they would defend all 28 member states, including former Soviet republics in the Baltic that are seen as the most vulnerable to Russian pressure.