Tuesday, April 8, 2014

NATO warns Russia against Historic Ukraine mistake

NATO warns Russia against
'historic' Ukraine mistake
AFP - 30 mins ago
Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) - NATO
warned Russia on Tuesday
against making an "historic
mistake" by stoking a flaring
secession crisis in eastern
Ukraine that Moscow itself
conceded could spill into a civil
Ukraine's embattled interim
leaders have been waging an
uphill battle to keep their
culturally splintered nation of 46
million together after last
month's ouster of a pro-Kremlin
president and subsequent loss
of Crimea to Russia.
An eery echo of the Black Sea
peninsula's crisis sounded on
Sunday when militants stormed
a series of strategic government
buildings across a swathe of
heavily Russified eastern regions
and demanded that Moscow
send its troops for support.
Ukraine mounted a counter-
offensive on Tuesday by vowing
to treat the separatists as
"terrorists" and making 70
arrests in a nighttime security
sweep aimed at proving the
Kremlin's involvement in the
secessionist movement.
An urgent deployment of
security forces saw Kiev also
regain control of an
administration building in
Kharkiv and the security service
headquarters of Donetsk -- the
stronghold of Viktor Yanukovych
prior to his ouster as president
and flight to Russia.
But the separatists still held on
to the security service building
in the city of Lugansk after
breaking into its massive
weapons cache and releasing
several activists who had been
accused of plotting to stage a
And hundreds of militants
remained holed up inside the
Donetsk administration building
a day after proclaiming the
creation of a sovereign "people's
republic" and demanding that
an independence referendum be
held before May 11.
The heart of Donetsk itself was a
mesh of razor wire and hastily-
assembled barricades of old
tyres that could be set on fire in
case the riot police decided to
mount an assault on the
regional government seat.
But calm had returned to the city
of Kharkiv after a night of
violence that saw retreating
militants throw Molotov cocktails
at the administration building as
hundreds of police regained
control of it.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov
said upon his return to from
Ukraine's second-largest city
that the Kharkiv police -- its
chiefs promoted under
Yanukovych -- had in many cases
worked with the militants.
"Instead of serving the
motherland, a substantial part of
the police force sabotaged the
process," Avakov told reporters.
"I think many of them -- about
30 percent -- will be let go."
- NATO warns Russia -
The months-long crisis threatens
not only to splinter the vast
nation on the EU's eastern
frontier along its ethnic divisions
but also plunge Moscow's
relations with the West to a low
that may take decades to repair.
NATO chief Anders Fogh
Rasmussen reaffirmed on a visit
to Paris that Moscow -- its forces
now massed along Ukraine's
eastern frontier -- would be
making an "historic mistake" if it
were to intervene in Ukraine any
"It would have grave
consequences for our
relationship with Russia and it
would further isolate Russia
internationally," said the Western
military alliance leader.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
has vowed to use "all means
necessary" to protect his
compatriots in Ukraine and is
now demanding a
decentralisation of power that
could push the east further out
of Kiev's reach.
The Russian foreign ministry put
still more pressure on Kiev by
accusing it of making "military
preparations (in eastern
regions) that are fraught with
the risk of unleashing a civil
It also alleged that the new
leaders were deploying private
security operatives from a US
firm called Greystone whom it
dressed up as Ukrainian special
Putin has frequently accused
Washington of trying to weaken
his hand and once blamed the
US State Department for the
sudden surge in anti-Kremlin
protests that hit Moscow in the
winter of 2011-2012.
But the White House continues
to point the finger of blame for
Ukraine's mounting problems
directly at Putin himself.
Washington warned the Kremlin
on Monday to stop efforts to
"destabilise Ukraine" and
proposed it instead join four-
way talks that besides the two
nations and Kiev would also
include the European Union.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov responded on Tuesday by
stressing that any negotiations
should also include
representatives of Ukraine's
southern and eastern regions --
a condition implicitly
unacceptable to Kiev.
- Ukraine denounces 'terrorists'
The West's growing concern
underscores the trouble Kiev
may have in bringing order to
Ukraine's eastern industrial
heartland -- a region with
ancient cultural and trade ties to
Acting President Oleksandr
Turchynov told a rowdy session
of parliament that included
fistfights between nationalists
and Kremlin supporters that he
intended to treat the pro-
Russian militants as "terrorists"
who will face the full brunt of
the law.
"Our security forces did not use
arms against peaceful civilians,"
said Turchynov.
"The authorities will treat
separatists and terrorists who
have picked up automatic
weapons, who are seizing
buildings, in accordance with
the constitution and the law --
as terrorists and criminals."
Parliament then unanimously
approved a bill doubling the jail
sentence for acts of
"separatism" committed by a
group of people to 10 from five

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