World News

Ukrainian, Pro-Russian Militia Sustain Casualties in Slovyansk Gunfire

Ukrainian special forces and pro-Russian militia exchanged gunfire Sunday in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk, with both sides reporting casualties.

Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said a security service officer was killed and another five wounded, the latest skirmish in the aftermath of Moscow's annexation last month of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. At least one pro-Russian activist was also killed in the gunfire and two injured.

The escalation of the Ukraine unrest came a day after pro-Russian gunmen took over the Slovyansk police station, and government facilities in the largely ethnic Russian cities of Donetsk and Kramatorsk.

In a statement, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he was "extremely concerned" about the increased tensions in the region. He described it a "concerted campaign of violence by pro-Russian separatists" seeking to destabilize Ukraine.

Fogh Rasmussen called on Russia to "de-escalate the crisis" and pull back thousands of troops from near the Ukrainian border. On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in a telephone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, warned there would be additional consequences beyond sanctions already imposed against Russian officials if Moscow did not move to ease tensions in eastern Ukraine.

Lavrov said the crisis was caused by the Kyiv government ignoring the "legitimate needs and interests" of eastern Ukraine's Russian-speaking population.

One pro-Russian protester pleaded with Russian President Vladimir Putin to send troops to support the Russians living in eastern Ukraine.



"We are the residents of the town of Slovyansk, Donetsk region. The National Guard is coming here, there has already been a shootout this morning. We have nothing to hide . Here is my face. I want to ask,'Comrade Putin, you've promised to protect us, please come here and protect us.'"





Ukraine Interior Minister Avakov said government security forces launched what he called "an anti-terrorist campaign" in Slovyansk. On Saturday, Ukraine said attacks by pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine were "an act of external aggression" by Russia.

A White House National Security Council spokeswoman said Saturday the United States is concerned that Russian-speaking separatists - with apparent support from Moscow - are "inciting violence and sabotage" against the Ukrainian state.

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 back payments. Early this month, the Russian energy giant Gazprom announced two price increases that effectively raise Ukrainian gas costs by about 80 percent. Additionally, Russian leader 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs