Russia says Ukraine on brink of civil war

2014-04-15 16:25
Pro-Russia activists warm themselves near a barricade outside a regional police building seized by armed separatists in Slavyansk. (Ganya Savilov, AFP)

Pro-Russia activists warm themselves near a barricade outside a regional police building seized by armed separatists in Slavyansk. (Ganya Savilov, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Kiev / Slaviansk - Russia declared Ukraine on the brink of civil war on Tuesday as Kiev said an "anti-terrorist operation" against pro-Moscow separatists was under way, with troops and armoured personnel carriers seen near a flashpoint eastern town.

Twenty-four hours after a Ukrainian ultimatum expired for the separatists to lay down their arms, witnesses however saw no signs yet that Kiev forces were about to storm state buildings in the Russian-speaking east that the rebels have occupied.

Police said separatists had surrendered the police headquarters in Kramatorsk, one of about 10 towns and cities where the separatists have seized buildings. However, an official later said they occupied another building in the town.

Interim President Oleksander Turchinov insisted the operation had started in the eastern Donetsk region, although it would happen in stages and "in a considered way".

Amidst the deepest East-West crisis since the Cold War, the leaders of Russia and the United States have called on each other to do all in their power to avoid further bloodshed.

The standoff has raised fears that Moscow might turn off gas supplies to Kiev, disrupting flows to the European Union.

Russian exporter Gazprom promised it would remain a reliable supplier to the EU, but German energy company RWE began deliveries to Ukraine on Tuesday - reversing the usual east-west flow in one central European pipeline.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave a gloomy assessment after at least two people died on Sunday when Kiev unsuccessfully tried to regain control in the town of Slaviansk, about 150km from the Russian border.

"Blood has once again been spilt in Ukraine. The country is on the brink of civil war," he said on his Facebook page.

Turchinov said the offensive, which he first announced on Sunday, was finally underway.

"The anti-terrorist operation began during the night in the north of Donetsk region. But it will take place in stages, responsibly, in a considered way. I once again stress: the aim of these operations is to defend the citizens of Ukraine," he told parliament.

At least 15 armoured personnel carriers displaying Ukrainian flags were parked by the side of a road around 50km north of the town of Slaviansk, witnesses said.

Ukrainian troops wearing camouflage gear and armed with automatic weapons and grenade launchers were stationed nearby, with a helicopter and several buses containing interior ministry personnel near the road.

In Slaviansk itself, where separatists have seized the local headquarters of the police and state security service, a Reuters correspondent heard no shots or blasts.

Outside the occupied police station about a dozen civilians manned barricades that have been built up overnight with more tyres and wooden crates.

A dozen or so armed Cossacks - paramilitary fighters descended from Tsarist-era patrolmen - stood guard at the mayor's offices. Shops were functioning as usual and bread supplies were normal.

"The night passed quickly, thank God. There have been lots of rumours of violence, but it's been very quiet here. We are in control," said one civilian on the barricades outside the police station, who gave his name only as Rustam.

Igor Dyomin, a spokesperson for the Donetsk region police, said armed militants had ended their occupation of the police station in Kramatorsk, which had begun on Saturday. "They left of their own accord," he said. But later a state security service spokeswoman said rebels had occupied the agency's local offices in the same town.

Greatly exaggerated stories

Ukraine's security forces have been in some disarray since protesters ousted pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovich in February. However, the delays to the crackdown may also reflect a desire by the interim leadership to avoid making things worse by causing civilian casualties.

Moscow accuses Kiev of provoking the crisis by ignoring the rights of citizens who use Russian as their first language, and has promised to protect them from attack. It also highlights the presence of far-right nationalists among Kiev's new rulers.

However, a United Nations report on Tuesday cast doubt on whether Russian-speakers were seriously threatened, including those in Crimea who voted to join Russia after Moscow forces had already seized control of the Black Sea peninsula.

"Although there were some attacks against the ethnic Russian community, these were neither systematic nor widespread," said the report by the UN human rights office.

The report cited "misinformed reports" and "greatly exaggerated stories of harassment of ethnic Russians by Ukrainian nationalist extremists".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied accusations from both Kiev and the West that Moscow was stirring up the separatists in the east and southeast as a possible prelude to repeating its annexation of Crimea.

"Ukraine is spreading lies that Russia is behind the actions in the southeast," Lavrov said on a visit to China.

He called on Kiev to hold back before a meeting between Russia, the EU, United States, and Ukraine planned for Geneva on Thursday. "The use of force would sabotage the opportunity offered by the four-party negotiations in Geneva," he said.

Moscow has demanded constitutional change in Ukraine to give more powers to Russian-speaking areas, where most of the country's heavy industry lies, while the secessionists have demanded Crimean-style referendums in their regions.

Kiev opposes anything that might lead to the dismemberment of the country. But in an attempt to undercut the rebels' demands, Turchinov has held out the prospect of a nationwide referendum on the future shape of the Ukrainian state.

Reverse flows

RWE's deliveries of gas to Ukraine through a pipeline from Poland marked an initial step in EU efforts to counter the risk that Russia will turn off the taps.

Central Europe's pipeline network is designed to carry Russian gas westwards. But Polish operator Gaz-System said it had reversed the flow to send back 4 million cubic metres per day, the equivalent of 1.5 billion annually - a modest volume compared with Ukraine's need for more than 50 billion.

Moscow has nearly doubled the price it charges Kiev this year, and President Vladimir Putin has threatened to halt supplies if Kiev does not repay more than $2bn it owes to Gazprom. Putin has also warned EU leaders that this could disrupt their supplies that flow across Ukraine.

Despite the bad east-west climate, London-based energy giant BP said its business in Russia was unaffected. BP owns a 19.75% stake in Kremlin-controlled Rosneft, which became the world's top listed oil producer last year.

"We are rock solid with our investments in Rosneft and [we] will stand by our investments. For us it's business as usual," chief executive Bob Dudley told reporters in Moscow.

Nato states have temporarily sent troops, aircraft and ships to eastern Europe to reassure nervous post-communist alliance members.

But Polish Defence minister Tomasz Siemoniak said the Crimean crisis made it vital that Nato station significant numbers of troops there and ignore any objections from Moscow.

"What is really important is the strengthening of Nato's eastern flank," Siemoniak told Reuters.

Read more on:    russia  |  ukraine
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Canada PM hid in a closet

2014-10-24 17:26
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
11 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

3 must-do trail runs

If you love trail running, you have to put these on your bucket list.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Climbing the world’s largest stone arch
Awesome extreme sports people
Watch: 2015 Absa Cape Epic route
Watch: Insane road bike skills!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

One day only! – 40% off Appliances!

Get 40% off 100’s of appliances at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is a strong desire to be self sufficient, right and in control today. There is a tendency to hold on too tightly to your...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.