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Ukraine PM Blames Russia for Unrest in East

  • VOA News

Ukraine's prime minister has accused Russia of backing violent separatist rallies, including the seizure of government buildings Sunday in three eastern Ukrainian cities.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk told a Cabinet meeting Monday that Russia is behind the unrest in the eastern cities of Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv. He said the violent demonstrations are clearly part of a plan to destabilize the situation and allow "foreign" troops to cross the border and seize Ukrainian territory.

Yatsenyuk said Russian troops remain stationed within 30 kilometers of Ukraine.
Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, in a televised address to the nation, said Moscow was attempting to repeat “the Crimea scenario.” He added that “anti-terrorist measures” would be deployed against those who had taken up arms.

Separatist rally organizers demanded Ukraine’s eastern regions hold referendums on whether to split from Ukraine and become part of Russia, following last month’s Crimea annexation by Moscow.

Pro-Russia activists in Donetsk have gone as far as proclaiming a sovereign "People's Republic of Donetsk.”

“In the event of aggressive action from the illegitimate Kyiv authorities, we will appeal to the Russian Federation to bring in a peacekeeping contingent,” read part of their proclamation.

They also said a referendum on the region's future will be held by May 11 at the latest.

Russia’s designs

Russia has been pushing internationally a plan proposing the “federalization” of Ukraine in which regions of the country of 46 million would have broad powers of autonomy.

Ukraine, while drawing up its own plan for “de-centralization” in which smaller municipalities would be able to retain a portion of state taxes, says the Russian proposal is aimed at breaking up the former Soviet republic.

"It is an attempt to destroy Ukrainian statehood, a script which has been written in the Russian Federation, the aim of which is to divide and destroy Ukraine and turn part of Ukraine into a slave territory under the dictatorship of Russia,'' Yatsenyuk said of what he called the Russian plan.

In Vienna, Russia did not attend a meeting on Ukraine of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The U.S. envoy to the OSCE, Daniel Baer, said tens of thousands of Russian troops were massed on the Ukrainian border.

Echoing the words of Yatsenyuk and Turchynov, Baer said any call by pro-Moscow activists for the troops to intervene was “tightly coordinated with the Russian government.”

Limited access

NATO said on Monday it would limit Russian diplomats' access to alliance headquarters in Brussels following its decision to suspend cooperation with Moscow because of Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.

“The formerly extensive access to NATO headquarters will be denied to all representatives of the Russian Mission [to NATO], except the Russian ambassador, his deputy head of mission, and two support staff,” NATO said in a statement.

Standard visitor rules will apply for all other staffers, the statement added.

Meanwhile, Russia has urged the West not to point fingers at Moscow in Ukraine’s crisis.

“Stop pointing at Russia, blaming it for all the troubles Ukraine is experiencing today. The Ukrainian people want to hear from Kyiv a clear answer to all questions,” said a Foreign Ministry statement.

Crimea losses

Ukraine's ecology and natural resources minister Andriy Mokhnyk estimated on Monday that Kyiv had lost natural resources and related assets worth $10.8 billion when Russia annexed the Crimea region.

Ukraine has said it will file compensation claims with international courts over the annexation of Crimea, which Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk said could ultimately cost Kyiv “hundreds of billions of dollars.”

The region is home to offshore drilling firm Chornomornaftohaz, and Russia has put Crimea's oil reserves at 47 million tons and gas at 165.3 billion cubic meters, according to RIA Novosti news agency.

Ukrainian officer killed

Separately, Ukraine's Defense Ministry says a Russian serviceman has shot dead an unarmed Ukrainian naval officer in eastern Crimea.

The ministry said the killing took place on April 6 in the town of Novofedorivka and that he was shot twice. It offered no other details.

RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service said the officer was killed in a "campus room" where he had been staying ahead of his planned return to Ukraine with his family on April 9.

A Ukrainian navy spokesman said the the officer, who was married and had two children, was killed with an AK-47.

Editor's note: VOA recently made a change to its map depicting Ukraine and Crimea which showed them as separate countries. It was not VOA’s intention to create that impression, and the current map we are using better depicts the current situation. VOA apologizes for any misunderstandings this may have caused

VOA's Jeff Seldin contributed to this story. Some reporting by RFE/RL and Reuters.
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