An early morning deadline set by Kiev for pro-Moscow militants to disarm and leave the administrative buildings they have seized in the country's separatist east passed on Monday with no sign of the rebels complying.
Russia warned Sunday of civil war in Ukraine after the government in Kiev said it would launch a “full-scale anti-terrorist operation” against the pro-Moscow militants in the east unless they complied with the ultimatum.
In announcing the offensive, acting President Oleksander Turchinov said Russia was waging a war against Ukraine and sowing disorder in the east by supporting the gunmen who have seized several law enforcement compounds in the region in recent days.
He offered not to prosecute any militants who gave up their weapons and left occupied buildings by 9am local time (0600 GMT) on Monday.
"Blood has been spilt in a war that is being waged against Ukraine by Russia," Turchinov said in a televised address to the nation, referring to the death of a state security officer in clashes with pro-Russian activists in the eastern city of Slaviansk.
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,” he declared.
“We will not allow Russia to repeat the Crimean scenario in the eastern regions of the country,” he said, referring to Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula following its takeover by pro-Russian militants.
Russia responded by saying Ukraine’s mobilisation was a “criminal order” and called on the West to bring its allies in Ukraine’s government under control.
POWER: 'Telltale signs of Moscow's involvement'
“It is now the West’s responsibility to prevent civil war in Ukraine,” the foreign ministry in Moscow said in a statement.
The statement also said that Russia would put an urgent discussion of the situation in eastern Ukraine on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council.
Later Sunday, the UN announced the council would hold an emergency meeting at 8pm New York time to discuss the escalating crisis.
Commenting on the situation, FRANCE 24’s chief foreign editor Rob Parsons said the pressure is all on Ukraine to show that it means business in foiling what it calls a Russian-engineered plot to seize more territories. Last month, Russia approved the annexation of Crimea after a referendum overwhelmingly voted in favour of secession from Ukraine.
If “the central authorities in Kiev do manage to regain initiative and start forcing out some of these paramilitary groups out of these city administration buildings where they’ve set themselves up… then that could begin to force Vladimir Putin’s hand. But at the moment he’s in a pretty comfortable position," Parsons said.
Speaking to American broadcaster ABC, Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, said the camouflaged forces that have carried out the seizures in Ukraine have “all the telltale signs of Moscow’s involvement”.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-04-13