13 Apr 2014

‘Russia is waging war against Ukraine’

Ukraine’s acting president says Russia is waging war against his country by sowing disorder in the east, and launches a “full-scale anti-terrorist operation” against pro-Russian separatists.

After a weekend of violence in which two people are reported to have died, Ukraine’s acting president Oleksander Turchynov accused Russia of waging war against Ukraine in a televised address to the nation.

The president also said the Ukrainian authorities will launch a “full-scale anti-terrorist operation” involving the army against pro-Russian separatists who have seized public buildings in a number of cities and towns in the east of Ukraine. However, he offered not to prosecute any militants who gave up their weapons by Monday morning.

Mr Turchynov said: “The blood of Ukrainian heroes has been shed in a war which the Russian Federation is waging against Ukraine.

“The aggressor has not stopped and is continuing to sow disorder in the east of the country,” he said.

The blood of Ukrainian heroes has been shed in a war which the Russian Federation is waging against Ukraine. Oleksander Turchynov

Kiev authorities say the separatists’ rebellions have been inspired and directed by the Kremlin, a charge Moscow denies.

“The National Security and Defence Council has decided to launch a full-scale anti-terrorist operation involving the armed forces of Ukraine,” Acting President Turchynov declared. “We will not allow Russia to repeat the Crimean scenario in the eastern regions of the country.”

Russia’s foreign ministry has said the west must “bring its Ukranian allies under control,” adding that if civil war in Ukraine is to be avoided, “it depends on the west’s actions.”

Russia denies that it is behind the attacks in east Ukraine by gunmen who have declared their loyalty to Russia; but the Ukrainian government, Nato and the United States are not convinced, particularly as the situation appears to be echoing what happened in Crimea – which ended up being annexed by Russia – just a few weeks ago.

The United States ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, warned that the US was prepared to step up sanctions against Russia if the situation continued, saying the latest events bore “the telltale signs of Moscow’s involvement”.

[Recent events] have the telltale signs of Moscow’s involvement. US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power

Nato described the appearance in eastern Ukraine of men with specialized Russian weapons and identical uniforms without insignia – as previously worn by Moscow’s troops when they seized Crimea – as a “grave development.”

In Slaviansk, one Ukrainian security officer was killed in clashes with pro-Russian gunmen who seized the police headquarters on Saturday, with five more reported injured. Russian news agency RIA also said that one separatist had died.

Speaking to Channel 4 News on Sunday, Svyatoslav Urush, an advisor to the Ukrainian ministry of defence, said that Russia had taken things to the next level.

“Putin is taking over our lands,” he said. Watch the full interview below.