Pro-Russian protesters respond to Kiev’s deadline to leave buildings by seizing more, as Foreign Secretary William Hague says there is “no real doubt” Russia is behind the unrest.
At least 100 separatists attacked the city police headquarters in the east Ukraine city of Horlivka, video posted online has shown. Later a regional government building was attacked (see video above).
In the city of Slaviansk, a flashpoint of weekend violence, masked men also took over a local airport. A separatist leader in Slaviansk appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for help the people of the “”Donetsk People’s Republic”.
Ukraine’s government had called for pro-Russian separatists to end their occupation of state buildings by 9am local time, or face an “anti-terrorist” operation.
We do not meddle in the affairs of Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
I don’t think denials of Russian involvement have a shred of credibility. British Foreign Secretary William Hague
But armed men who had seized government buildings in some eastern Ukraine towns appeared not to have heeded the warning, and in Slaviansk the Russian flag was still flying.
On Monday, Mr Hague called for further sanctions against Russia for what he said was Moscow’s hand in the Ukrainian unrest.
“There can’t really be any real doubt that this is something that has been planned and brought about by Russia,” Mr Hague said. as he arrived at a meeting of EU foreign ministers to discuss the crisis.
“I don’t think denials of Russian involvement have a shred of credibility.”
He said he would be encouraging EU foreign ministers to take further measures to sanction Russia. The “third phase” of sanctions is expected to include restrictions on trade and finance with Russia – something that has, until now, been avoided.
A spokeswoman for Germany’s foreign ministry supported Mr Hague’s position on Russia’s role in the crisis, saying: “We have numerous sources that suggest Russia may be playing a role in the clashes.”
But Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has denied that Russia is involved.
“We do not meddle in the affairs of Ukraine,” he said. “We don’t have any agents there, not from the GRU (military intelligence) or the FSB (domestic security service).”
He said it was “not in Russia’s interest to destabilise the situation in Ukraine”.
Ukraine‘s acting president Oleksander Turchynov warned rebels on Sunday that a full-scale security operation, including the army, would be unleashed unless they met the deadline.
In response, Russia called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Sunday night, and accused Ukraine of waging war on its own people. Vitaly Churkin, ambassador to the UN denied Moscow’s involvement in the violent takeover of buildings in eastern Ukraine.
It is the west that will determine the opportunity to avoid civil war in the Ukraine. Vitaly Churkin, Russian ambassador
He also accused the west of refusing to acknowledge the real and legitimate protest among some Ukrainians, and added: “It is the west that will determine the opportunity to avoid civil war in the Ukraine.”
But Mr Turchynov blamed Russia for unrest in the east of the country: “We will not allow Russia to repeat the Crimean scenario in the eastern regions of Ukraine.”
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region, in the south east, after the country’s former pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych fled following months of “maidan” protests against his decision not to foster relations with the EU.
The UN warned of sanctions against the Kremlin if the escalation in eastern Ukraine continued. Washington on Sunday released a statement detailing “evidence of Russian support for destabilisation of Ukraine”.
Read more from Paul Mason: a moment of acute danger for Ukraine