Ukraine's interim President Oleksandr Turchynov has ordered security forces to resume "anti-terror" operations in eastern Ukraine, after a local politician from his own party and a second person were found dead with signs of torture.
The order was made Tuesday, just hours after visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden departed the Ukrainian capital. He called on Moscow to honor its promise to withdraw support for armed pro-Russian separatists inside Ukraine. The mobilization order also followed reports that a Ukrainian Air Force plane came under fire near the eastern city of Slovyansk.
Ukraine's first attempt to dislodge separatists from the largely Russian-speaking east failed last week. Ukrainian forces have since maintained a low profile in the aftermath of a deal signed Thursday in Geneva by the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union aimed at easing the crisis.
Mr. Turchynov said insurgents "are beginning to torture and kill Ukrainian patriots." He also said "they demonstratively mock the decisions taken at Geneva."
Pro-Russian gunmen are demanding the right to hold referendums on splitting with Ukraine and joining Russia. A vote last month in Crimea led to the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula.
Earlier Tuesday, in a joint appearance with Ukraine's interim prime minister, the U.S. vice president called on Moscow "to stop talking and start acting" on its commitments to restore peace in eastern Ukraine. He said Ukraine "is and must remain one country," and that the United States will not let Ukraine "walk down this road alone."
Biden also said the United States will provide Ukraine's government with an additional $50 million, including $11 million to help fund the May 25 presidential election.
Also Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to voice "deep concern over the lack of positive Russian steps" to ease tensions, as agreed upon in the Geneva crisis talks. A statement said Kerry urged Russia to "tone down escalatory rhetoric," and to engage diplomatically with European monitors and the Kyiv government.
Kerry spoke separately with Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and praised Kyiv for taking what he called "important steps" to ease tensions in the Russian-speaking east. The statement said Kerry noted progress on amnesty legislation for armed pro-Russian separatists, and preparations for a national dialogue on constitutional reforms that would include all regions of the country.
In other developments, the Russian news website Gazeta.ru on Tuesday quoted the so-called "people's mayor" of Slovyansk as saying an American journalist, Simon Ostrovsky, has been seized by pro-Russian militiamen.
The media outlet for which Ostrovsky works, VICE News, said it is in contact with the U.S. State Department and other appropriate government authorities to secure his safety and security.