World News

Ukraine Launches 'Anti-Terrorist' Operation in Slovyansk

Ukraine's interior minister says government security forces have launched what he called "an anti-terrorist campaign" in the eastern city of Slovyansk where pro-Russian militants have seized control of official buildings.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook page Sunday that gunmen had opened fire on the advancing forces, and that there are dead and wounded on both sides. The report of gunfire and casualties has not been independently confirmed.

On Saturday, Ukraine said attacks by pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine are "an act of external aggression" by Russia. Kyiv warned that security officials were preparing to implement "an operational response plan."

In addition to Slovyansk, armed militants with Russian weapons seized police headquarters Saturday in the largely ethnic Russian cities of Donetsk and Kramatorsk.

Around a dozen Berkut, or special forces police, appeared at the Donetsk headquarters, saying they would secure the weapons arsenal in the building.

Witnesses, including Western journalists, say the Kramatorsk facility was captured after a firefight, but there were no reports of casualties.

The takeover of police facilities in Donetsk prompted the city's police chief to resign.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in a telephone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, expressed "strong concern" the attacks on Saturday were orchestrated and synchronized, similar to previous attacks in eastern Ukraine and Crimea. The U.S. State Department says Kerry made clear that if Russia did not take steps to de-escalate in eastern Ukraine and move its troops back from Ukraine's border, there would be additional consequences.

The United States has called on Russia to "cease all efforts" to destabilize Ukraine. A White House National Security Council spokeswoman said Saturday the United States is concerned that Russian separatists - with apparent support from Moscow - are "inciting violence and sabotage" against the Ukrainian state.

In Moscow, Russian state television reports Foreign Minister Lavrov told Kerry Saturday that the crisis is caused by the Kyiv government ignoring "the legitimate needs and interests of the Russian and Russian-speaking population" of the region.

Lavrov also warned that any use of force by Kyiv could undermine diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis.

Moscow has repeatedly denied any role in Ukraine's unrest, which erupted in full two months ago when then-president Viktor Yanukovych fled the country amid anti-Russian protests in Kyiv.

Despite Moscow's denials, Kyiv and a host of Western governments have cited overwhelming evidence of Russian involvement, including the presence of thousands of Russian troops that infiltrated the Crimean peninsula ahead of last month's secession referendum.

A spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Saturday that the U.N. chief is "deeply concerned" about the deteriorating situation in eastern Ukraine and has appealed to all sides to "adhere to the rule of law and exercise maximum restraint."

Days after that vote, the Russian parliament voted to annex the peninsula, prompting the United States and the European Union to impose economic and travel sanctions on Moscow.

There were other signs of heightened cross-border tensions Saturday, with the Kyiv government saying it is suspending natural gas payments to Moscow. Details of the move were not immediately clear.

Moscow says its neighbor owes $ 2.2 billion in payment arrears. Early this month, the Russian energy giant Gazprom announced two price increases that effectively raise Ukrainian gas costs by about 80 percent. Additionally, Russian President Vladimir Putin has hinted that Moscow may begin demanding energy payments from Kyiv at the time of delivery.

Top diplomats from Russia, the United States, Ukraine and the European Union are set to hold emergency talks on the crisis April 17 in Geneva. White House officials say U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Kyiv April 22.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs