Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr Turchinov called for "anti-terrorist" operations in the east of the country to resume after the body of a local politician from his own party was found Tuesday showing signs of torture.
Turchinov said in a statement that "brutally tortured" bodies had been found near the city of Slaviansk, which is in the hands of pro-Russian militants, including that of Volodymyr Rybak, a member of Turchinov's Batkivshchyna party who had recently been abducted.
Turchinov said that Russia was fully aware of these and other "crimes".
"These crimes are being carried out with the full support and indulgence of the Russian Federation," he said. "I call on the security agencies to relaunch and carry out effective anti-terrorist measures, with the aim of protecting Ukrainian citizens living in eastern Ukraine from terrorists."
The relaunch of military operations comes just hours after US Vice President Joe Biden ended a two-day visit to Kiev during which he called on Russia "to act on the commitments that they made" in Geneva last week and urge pro-Russian separatists to vacate the government buildings and checkpoints they have seized in east Ukraine.
The US Defence Department at the same time announced it was sending 600 troops to neighbouring Poland and to Baltic countries for "exercises".
Russia already has tens of thousands of its troops massed on Ukraine's eastern border.
In a further backslide towards violence, which many fear could tip into civil war, a Ukrainian reconnaissance plane was hit by gunfire while flying above Slaviansk.
The Antonov An-30 propellor-driven plane received several bullet impacts, but safely made an emergency landing and none of its crew members were hurt, according to the defence ministry in Kiev.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has monitors in the country, also said that rebels had abducted a police chief in the town of Kramatorsk – calling it the sort of "provocative" action that "can only worsen the existing tensions and contribute to further violence".
Pro-Moscow militants had taken over Kramatorsk's police station late Monday, extending their grip from the already occupied town hall.
Kiev, Washington and many EU countries see Moscow as pulling the strings in the Ukrainian separatist insurgency.
Biden, in his news conference after meeting the Kiev authorities, warned Russia of isolation if it continues to try to "pull Ukraine apart", underlining a US threat to impose more sanctions on Moscow.
"We have been clear that more provocative behaviour by Russia will lead to more costs and to greater isolation," he said.
Moscow has been dismissive of Western threats of more sanctions, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying on Monday that efforts to cut Moscow off from the international community would prove fruitless.
"Attempts to isolate Russia have absolutely no future because isolating Russia from the rest of the world is impossible," he said.
Moscow has strenuously denied allegations that the armed men who have seized administrative buildings across eastern Ukraine are Russian troops.
At a carefully choreographed annual press briefing last week, President Vladimir Putin dismissed the reports as “all nonsense” before asserting: “There are no Russian units, special services or instructors in the east of Ukraine.”
The US State Department on Monday confirmed that images supplied by Ukrainian diplomats of the militants at work in east Ukraine are linked to units of Russian special forces that were active in Crimea earlier this year.
The units were also operating in Georgia when Russia seized portions of that country's territory in 2008.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-04-22