News / Europe

    Pentagon: Russian Aircraft Enter Ukraine's Airspace Several Times

    Pro-Russian armed militants prepare to inspect a truck near Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, April 25, 2014.
    Pro-Russian armed militants prepare to inspect a truck near Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, April 25, 2014.
    VOA News
    U.S. military officials said Russian aircraft flew into Ukrainian airspace several times Friday.

    A Pentagon spokesman called on Moscow "to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation." The official gave no details on where the incursions took place or the goal of the action.

    The flights come as Russia increases military exercises along the Ukrainian border. On Thursday, the top U.S. military officer Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, spoke with his Russian counterpart.  

    Also Friday, pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine detained a team of international military observers. The separatists seized a bus carrying at least 13 people from the Vienna-based Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe [OSCE] near the town of Slovyansk.

    The town's self-declared mayor, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, said the group was detained because a Ukrainian military official was traveling with them.

    "The sign OSCE does not mean protection for an officer of the [army] General Headquarters. We found an employee of the army headquarters. After an investigation we will decide what we are to do," said Ponomarev.

    The OSCE wrote on Twitter that it had lost contact with the German-led monitoring team.

    The United States and the European Union are expected on Monday to impose new sanctions on Russian individuals, sources said, as the Ukraine crisis escalated with armed pro-Russia separatists seizing a bus carrying international mediators.

    The U.S. State Department is condemning the reported abduction of an international observer team and its Ukrainian escorts by armed gunmen in the town of Slovyansk.

    "If true, we strongly condemn this action and call for their immediate release," said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki. "Over the past week, we've unfortunately seen a rapid escalation in hostage takings by pro-Russian separatists. We condemn this repressive and cowardly tactic and call for the release of all hostages."

    Pro-Russian separatists say the group was detained because a Ukrainian military official was traveling with them. 

    The interior ministry in Kyiv said the detained group includes seven OSCE representatives and five members of the Ukrainian armed forces who were accompanying them.

    On his Twitter account, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt called for the group's immediate release: "Extremely concerned with OSCE inspectors being abducted in Eastern Ukraine. Including one Swede. They must be released immediately."
     
    • A Ukrainian police officer stands guard at a checkpoint that was attacked by unknown men outside the Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine, April 25, 2014.
    • A pro-Russian armed man smokes as he guards near the mayor's office in Slovyansk, Ukraine, April 25, 2014.
    • A Ukrainian soldier sits atop of his armored vehicle at a check point near the village of Artemiovska, near Slovyansk, Ukraine, April 24, 2014.
    • Ukrainian security force officers are deployed at a checkpoint set on fire and left by pro-Russian separatists near Slovyansk, April 24, 2014.
    • A Pro-Russian supporter walks at the seized office of the SBU state security service in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, April 24, 2014.
    • Municipal workers take a break from taking down barricades in central Kyiv, April 23, 2014.
    • Members of Maidan self-defense forces march along the street in central Kyiv, April 23, 2014.
    • Ukrainian presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko speaks during a briefing in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine April 24, 2014.
    • People carry the coffin of local politician Volodymyr Rybak, allegedly tortured and killed by pro-Russia separatists, during his funeral in the village of Horlivka, in eastern Ukraine, April 24, 2014.
    • People carry coffins containing the bodies of men killed in a gunfight on April 20, during a funeral ceremony in Slovyansk, April 22, 2014.
    • A pro-Russian armed man stands guard outside a regional government building seized by the pro-Russians, in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, April 22, 2014.

    Meantime, a leading Russian military leader is voicing concern over the situation in  southeastern Ukraine, the Interfax news agency reported.

    In a telephone call, Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov told U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey that Ukraine has a "substantial group of forces" near the Russian border, which includes some troops intent on conducting sabotage.

    Ukrainian forces killed up to five pro-Russia separatists Thursday during an effort to regain control of rebel-held areas.

    'Positive steps'

    President Barack Obama discussed the Ukraine crisis Friday in a telephone call with French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

    The White House said in a statement that the four leaders agreed Ukraine had taken "positive steps" to uphold the four-party deal it signed in Geneva last week to de-escalate tensions, while Russia had "not reciprocated."

    According to the White House, Obama said the United States is prepared to impose targeted sanctions to respond to Russia's latest actions, and all four leaders agreed to closely coordinate additional steps to impose costs on Russia.

    Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Friday that the next round of sanctions against Moscow will put more pain on the Russian economy.

    "We are working with our international partners to make sure  that when we do it, we do it in an effective way,'' Lew said on Marketplace, a radio show produced by American Public Media. 

    The development follows an accusation earlier Friday by Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk that Russia wants to occupy Ukraine "militarily and politically," as both Kyiv and Moscow mass troops close to their mutual border.

    Yatsenyuk warned Friday that Russia's actions could lead to a wider military conflict in Europe. He told an interim Cabinet meeting that Moscow "wants to start World War III."

    His comments came amid reports of fresh violence in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian militants continue to occupy government buildings in around a dozen cities.

    A Ukrainian military helicopter exploded Friday on the tarmac of a base near the eastern city of Kramatorsk. Some Ukrainian officials said the explosion was the result of a rocket-propelled grenade fired by pro-Russian militants, while others said it was caused by a sniper who fired a single shot into a fuel tank.

    Ukrainian officials said Friday that they aimed to "blockade" the rebel-held city of Slovyansk as part of an "anti-terrorist" operation in eastern Ukraine.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday denounced Kyiv's security operation to clear the pro-Russian militants, calling it a "bloody crime."

    Russia has reportedly dramatically increased the number of troops deployed along its border with Ukraine. A Ukrainian diplomat at the United Nations told VOA that Moscow has doubled its military presence on the border to about 80,000 troops.

    Lavrov, for his part, blamed the West for raising tensions, saying Friday that the pro-Russian militants would only lay down their weapons if the Ukrainian government first clears out its own protesters in the capital.

    Credit rating downgrade

    Underscoring the effect that wider sanctions could have on Russia's economy, credit agency Standard and Poor's cut Russia's credit rating to BBB-. The agency said it is concerned about increased capital outflows from Russia, and said the rating could be cut further if sanctions are tightened.

    Washington has accused Moscow of failing to uphold the four-party deal it signed last week calling for all parties in Ukraine to lay down their weapons and vacate public buildings. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Moscow has not taken "a single step" to de-escalate tensions since the deal was signed in Geneva. 

    Odessa clash
     
    Seven people were injured overnight at a pro-Ukrainian checkpoint near the Black Sea port of Odessa when an explosive device blew up, police said on Friday.
     
    Residents in the town have built several such checkpoints near the town aimed at stopping pro-Russian separatists entering from Moldova's breakaway territory of Transdniestria.
     
    Interfax news agency quoted witnesses as saying a bomb was thrown at the checkpoint from a passing car, though this was not confirmed by police.
     
    Transdniestria, home to Russian peacekeepers and Russian troops guarding a Soviet-era arms stock, declared independence in the early 1990s.
     
    NATO warned last month of a possible Russian military grab for Transdniestria following its annexation of Crimea.
     
    Ukrainian forces killed up to five pro-Moscow rebels on Thursday as they closed in on the separatists' military stronghold in the east, and Russia launched army exercises near the border in response, raising fears its troops would invade.
     
    The Ukrainian offensive amounts to the first time Kyiv's troops have used lethal force to recapture territory from rebels who have seized swathes of eastern Ukraine since April 6 and proclaimed an independent “People's Republic of Donetsk”.

    Some information for this report provided by Reuters
     

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    
    by: Anonymous
    April 25, 2014 12:50 PM
    Meenwhile what putin is saying "if Ukraine uses the military against its people it is a crime"... Uh hello putin did you not know this has been going on in Syria for well over 3 years? You provided the weapons to murder thousands of civilians, don't be such a donkey.
    In Response

    by: realitycop from: usa
    April 26, 2014 9:28 PM
    Absolutely. .. the russians are telling their people the sky is orange and they are eating it up
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    April 26, 2014 4:41 AM
    Big thumbs up

    by: Joseph from: Palm Beach Gardens, FL
    April 25, 2014 12:29 PM
    Hope that the rest of the Ukraine's provisional government is not composed of such reckless demagogues like their prime minister, a loose cannon in fact.
    In Response

    by: Passtime from: London
    April 25, 2014 1:46 PM
    He is not a reckless demagogue - he is simply the mouthpiece of the imperialist cabal that is controlled by Obama and Nuland. Ultimately he is a cowardly little traitor, anyone who seeks assistance from a foreign power to achieve his own domestic political ambitions, is a very dangerous person for any country. In the good old days traitors like this would be sent to the gallows, if not shot. Whichever way it ends, this little puppy is going to go that way.

    by: john from: vn
    April 25, 2014 12:21 PM
    Putin must stop right now, immediately . the world must act

    by: john from: vn
    April 25, 2014 12:16 PM
    Putin should be awarded the prize "the most influential neighbor land occupier in the world. very very bad and brutal.I think

    by: gen from: Japan
    April 25, 2014 10:37 AM
    Kiev government politician should go to Kremlin to explain the stance before anti-pro russian operation.Kiev government only say the crisis of the Ukaine.But only words.Kiev government politician only stay in kiev.How coward! They should talk and explain the vision to Kremlin directly.You only sit in kiev and send troops to the eastern part of Ukraine. Are you really poltician? In Ukrain is there really president? If only sit in biulding and post on the site, even a junior high school student can be president of Ukraine.I feel sorry for the people and the soldiers who are born in such a country.
    In Response

    by: Иван Венке
    April 26, 2014 2:08 AM
    they say only what US say them to talk about because the "Govt" in Kiew is US-imposed - there are many evidences of it and US still didn't answer on any of them. (Lavron in UN and RT to Jen Psaki have been constantly telling about it) Kiew Govt is illegitimate and came to the power by armed coup. That's the way why them can't act on their own name.
    In Response

    by: CFL68 from: USA
    April 25, 2014 12:55 PM
    Maybe. But Kremlin has a history of murdering foreign leaders from sputnik countries that try to leave orbit. Putin already calls them fascists and usurpers, and doesn't recognize them.

    And why does Ukraine gov't have to do anything for Kremlin? Ukraine is independent country that Russia has already stolen territory from and is threatening to invade.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    April 25, 2014 12:44 PM
    They don't need to go to Russia for any reason, it isn't Russias business. Secondly I would never go to Russia. I would never trust their government, they have a proven track record over history of poisoning people they don't like, that's a fact. What happens on Ukraine soil is under Ukraine law, nothing to do with that clown "Putin"

    by: Pasternac from: Austria
    April 25, 2014 8:35 AM
    It all happened because of ridiculous sanctions imposed on Russia. Putin has seen that EU depends on Russia and he can do what he thinks is right and must not take advice from the West. What if it is start of WW3? What if it is beginning of collapsing of EU or even USA? Putin is going to ruin not only Ukraine,but euro and dollar and all of us.
    In Response

    by: Иван Венке
    April 26, 2014 2:19 AM
    don't be affraid. Russia had been never in history led occupation and destructive wars. And russia want's nothing from Ukraine. We're ready aven to forgive them $35 bil. debt for gas. It's SOUTH-EAST who showes its free desire to be with Russia because they don't accept US-imposed govt in Kiew. There is no legitimate power in Ukraine at the moment because ACTING PRES. is alive and is in Russia. He was feared and ousted but he's acting and legitimate !!! Govt in Ukraine is US-imposed and that's the US who runs the show. EU supports them because of absolute dependens on US. Ask them for easing the tension and be affraid of them unleash confrontation.
    In Response

    by: Wilf Tarquin from: Rockall
    April 25, 2014 3:05 PM
    You grossly overestimate the reach and power of Russia. The West has 6 times the population, 3.5 times more soldiers, and 15 times larger economy. Plus the Western armies are better equipped and trained.
    Russia has no chance of defeating the West, and Putin may be an aggressive fascist dictator, but he isn't an idiot.

    by: Regula from: USA
    April 25, 2014 8:33 AM
    Yatsenyuk exaggerates as usual: even if Russia intervenes in Ukraine to protect its Russian compatriots, it will only be a war between Russia and Ukraine - the US cannot intervene, as Ukraine is not a NATO member. Nor will the US fight a war for Ukraine. Nor has Russia doubled its military along the western border. Yatsenyuk apparently hopes that the US would pay for the Ukraine military. His government clearly can't pay. It may even lose its gas supply next month - which means loss of a lot of industry - if it doesn't prepay. His hope that the EU will deliver free gas is misplaced. The EU won't pay for it. Yatsenyuk would of course like the US to get involved - a pipe dream. The US will intervene only if it can fight a war on Russia that doesn't affect the US homeland. Any attack on Russia will however precipitate just that.

    Instead, Yatsenyuk has to solve the problem in a real way: by talking to the eastern protesters to understand their concerns instead of calling them separatists or terrorists. And by reforming the constitution with all regions present in the discussions, so the new constitutions takes all concerns into account. Apparently, Yatsenyuk realizes that he will not win any elections and thinks that by killing his own people he gains in importance. At this point he has lost all legitimacy if he ever had any. The coup government is just what it was from the beginning: an bunch of criminal thugs.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    April 25, 2014 12:46 PM
    If criminals are overtaking government buildings in Ukraine, that is Ukraine's business NOT Russias. IF Russia decides to attack Ukraine (meenwhile it is not Russias business) then it is anyone in the worlds business to join in, in bringing Putin to trial in the International Criminal Court. Or whatever it takes to defend Ukraine from the Russian agression.

    People of Russia should oust Putin, if they know what is good for them...
    In Response

    by: gen from: Japan
    April 25, 2014 11:11 AM
    Kiev governnent is the coup government is just what it was from the beginning: an bunch of criminal thugs.It is right.But US politician support them.and coup occurred in kiev. Everybody knows in Ruussia.
    The photo of their shakehands posted on the net.US makes the crazy coup governnent in kiev.So everybody is angry in Russia.The reason why US do that is in the book"the end of history and the last man"by Frrancis Fukuyama.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    April 25, 2014 10:15 AM
    My question is? -- WHO will repay these US and EU loans, since the Ukraine leaders signatures would be illegal since they weren't elected, (and can anybody with common sense), trust these coup leaders, (not to spend the loan money to fund the use of the Ukraine military against their own people?)
    Comments page of 2
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